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Obama Flying to LA to Reassure Hollywood Donors

President Barack Obama

The president arrives for a star-studded concert and high-roller dinner on Sunday amid "shock" in Hollywood over his Denver debate performance.

President Barack Obama returns to Los Angeles Sunday for a star-bedecked celebrity concert and fundraising dinner. In the wake of his Denver debate troubles, however, the long scheduled visit has acquired another, equally urgent purpose—reassuring his Hollywood supporters that he's fighting to win the race and he's poised for a comeback in the next televised forum with former Gov. Mitt Romney.

From the now iconic dinner at George Clooney’s house that created a new Internet raffle style of campaign fundraising, through a series of lucrative Westside fundraisers and a wildly successful gala staged by the gay and lesbian community, the entertainment industry—in both L.A. and New York—has turned out to be a critical component in the Obama campaign’s fundraising efforts. There’s also no doubt that the president’s Hollywood supporters were deeply shaken by his lackluster performance in this week’s debate with Republican nominee Romney.

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“Everyone is in shock,” said one long-time Democratic activist. “No one can understand what happened.”

At the very least, several longtime Obama supporters told THR, the chief executive should expect some directorial notes on how to tailor his performance to television’s split screen. “Everyone with a connection to the president is reaching out to him,” said another veteran Dem. “At the end of the day, the best coach he has is himself.”

The cloud of anxious fallout from Denver has all but overshadowed what otherwise would be considered a particularly glittering and gala L.A. appearance for Obama. His Sunday evening will kick off with a concert at downtown L.A.’s Nokia Theater featuring Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, Earth Wind and Fire, and Jon Bon Jovi. Presidential pal Clooney will make a special appearance to introduce Wonder. Afterward, Obama will head next door for a $25,000-per-plate dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s chic WP24. Both events were sold out before the debate. The two events could easily raise more than $5 million for the president's reelection campaign.  

Obama's trip will also include a private meeting in Beverly Hills with 12 donors to thank them for their support, according to campaign officials.  Former President Bill Clinton -- who is raising money for his foundation this week in Los Angeles  -- is expected to attend.

On Monday, the president will head north to San Francisco for a fundraising dinner hosted by superstar chef Alice Waters, and a concert headlined by John Legend.

In Hollywood political circles this weekend, Obama’s shaky showing in Denver remained the conversational Topic A.

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Among the Democrats who traveled to the Mile High City for the debate, there was some perplexity over how differently the event played in the hall and on the small screen. Many of those who actually witnessed the showdown in person thought the president’s performance was at least passable. “We thought it was 50/50," said one attendee. "In the room, Romney seemed rude and bombastic."

It wasn't until the crowd was allowed to turn their cell phones back on after the debate that everyone realized how badly things had gone for Obama. "You could tell when he came out on stage that he just wasn't himself," one attendee told THR. "But it seemed that he was doing ok. We wanted him to hit back more. No one knew how bad it looked on the split screen."

Andy Spahn, one of the president’s top Hollywood fundraisers, gave the whole affair an optimistic spin. He said of the debate: “Not our best night, but the president has been great on the stump since and support is pouring in. Romney’s distortions and flip flops will hurt him in the days and weeks ahead.”