Event took place at New Amsterdam Theater in Gotham

“This is the third event tonight where I’m the warm-up act for the president,” joked former commander-in-chief Bill Clinton to laughter from 1,700 fans packing The New Amsterdam Theater in Gotham, the Broadway home of “Mary Poppins.”

“I don’t think it’s important to reelect the president. I think it’s essential to reelect the president,” Clinton said. He’s taken some heat for a recent comment on Obama rival Governor Mitt Romney’s “sterling business career.” Monday night was make-up time. He bashed Republicans embracing “policies of European austerity and unemployment at all costs” instead of pushing for growth and jobs. Obama’s made good decisions, he said, “and did the best he could with a lousy hand.”

Obama lauded Clinton, who took a seat behind him after introductory remarks, for helping “guide the Democratic party out of the wilderness.”

The audience clutched Playbills titled “Barack on Broadway” During the last stop on a trail of New York City fundraisers as the campaign and the battle for cash starts to heat up. Clinton and Obama first hit the Upper East Side home of Mark Lasry, founder of hedge fund Avenue Capital Group, at a $40,000-a-head dinner, followed by a gala at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for about 500 and capped by the star turn on Broadway.

“It’s good to be back on Broadway,” Obama said, following performances by stars of the Great White Way including Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones. But unlike his appearance at the Apollo theater several months ago, he didn’t sing.

He said the country is headed in the right direction now despite rocky economic times, which makes this election even more crucial than the last one in a way. And he warned supporters about the estimated “$500 million in Super Pac financed negative ads” on Romney’s behalf that are about to rain down, feeding on fear and frustration.

Republicans “have no vision for the future,” he said. It’s “things are tough and it’s Obama’s fault.’ That about sums it up.”

“How is repealing Obama care and throwing” millions of people off the insurance rolls an economic initiative? he asked.

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