President attends star-studded concert
President Obama made his final fundraising swing through Los Angeles before the election with a series of events on Sunday that underscored the importance Hollywood has been to his campaign.
The highlight was a star-studded concert at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, where Earth, Wind & Fire, Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder and Jon Bon Jovi performed for some 6,000 donors. Their presence inspired Obama, once he took the stage, to note the musicians and make comparisons to his much derided debate performance on Wednesday. “They’re such great friends, and they perform flawlessly night after night. I can’t always say the same,” Obama told the crowd to laughter and then applause.
Obama’s visit was the seventh to Los Angeles since announcing his reelection bid, as he has depended heavily on the region for campaign cash and the entertainment industry in particular for support. On Twitter, Rufus Gifford, the finance director of his campaign, noted this was the final event. “Bittersweet but going out with a bang,” he wrote.
This swing was expected to bring in more than $7 million, according to the early estimate of one fundraising source. In addition to the concert, the visit also included a $25,000-per-person dinner at WP24, the Wolfgang Puck restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz Carlton in downtown Los Angeles, with George Clooney, Harvey Weinstein, Seth MacFarlane, Michael Lynton, Tim Leiweke and Jim Gianopulos among the guests. Obama singled out Ken Solomon and John Emerson, his Southern California finance co-chairs, as well as Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn, for their support.
Earlier, shortly after landing at LAX on Sunday afternoon, Obama trekked to the Trousdale Estates home of Katzenberg, where he and former President Bill Clinton met with about a dozen donors. The purpose, said a campaign official, was not to raise money but thank them for their support.
Obama’s remarks at the events seemed aimed at showing a contrast to the debate. At the concert, which was more of a rally to motivate supporters to volunteer until the Nov. 6 election, Obama, wearing no suit jacket, appeared energetic and more relaxed.
“Back in 2008 — everybody always remembers the victory, but they don’t always remember the bumps in the road,” Obama said. “Things always look good in retrospect. But in the middle of it, we made all kinds of mistakes. We goofed up. I goofed up. But the American people carried us forward.”
As he has at previous campaign events, Obama also took aim at Mitt Romney’s plans to cut federal funding for PBS.
“When he was asked what he’d actually do to cut spending, he said he’d go after public television. So for all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry, somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird — cracking down on him,” he said. “Elmo has made a run for the border. Gov. Romney plans to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s bringing the hammer down on Sesame Street.”
Obama’s campaign has tapped Hollywood extensively not just for financial support but for visibility. At the concert, a video aimed at the women’s vote featured Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, Julianne Moore, Ashley Judd and Beyonce. Recently, the campaign dispatched Jason Alexander to Iowa to rally early voters.
The appeals are a contrast even to 2008, when the campaign was a bit more reticent about pushing Obama’s support from showbiz figures too far. During the 2008 fall campaign, John McCain criticized Obama for appearing at a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand, as Washington struggled to fix the collapsing economy.
This time around, there was little criticism coming from the Romney side.