By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
we don't need presidential campaigns or even candidates to know that the 2012 race is already on. That's because an even more official source than candidate trips to Iowa and New Hampshire has just weighed in. "President Obama and Vice President Biden," says the Secret Service, citing official expectations, "will run for re-election." Need further proof the game is on? Then consider the Secret Service budget demands: This year it wants $14 million to get ready for 2012.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan says the cash request is urgent because the agency needs lots of new equipment like armored cars and radios that take time to make. "We have to buy these vehicles this year," he says, explaining the long process to install after-market armor and bulletproof glass. Once equipped, the cars will be positioned around the country to haul around Obama, Biden, and whomever the GOP puts up in 2012.
At $14 million, the request for presidential campaign "start-up" money isn't really that bad. The agency requested $18.4 million to get ready for the 2008 campaign, figuring that campaign years when no incumbent president or vice president is running cost a bunch more because there are so many candidates. Then the agency was asked to protect Barack Obama early because of death threats, and of course it was already assigned to guard former first lady Hillary Clinton. This time, says Sullivan, "I do not believe there will be as many candidates" running for office.
Other unpredicted costs also came into play, mostly because of Obama's popularity, and the agency found itself $5 million over budget when the 2008 campaign was over. For example, Sullivan says crowd sizes were twice as big as the ones campaigns attracted in 2004, requiring more security and machinery. And the agency screened more than 4.2 million people through magnetometers at all events, a 77 percent jump from the year former President Bush was challenged by Sen. John Kerry. "The campaigns are unpredictable," says Sullivan.
So's the environment, he adds. Back before 9/11, an $8 million start-up budget was drafted for the 2004 campaign that saw Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney re-elected.