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Even as Mitt Romney’s campaign released a video mocking Barack Obama for hobnobbing with celebrities as the jobs picture worsens, the president flew to Manhattan on Monday for a glittering trifecta of big-money fundraisers.
Obama was joined at all three by the Democrats’ other ranking political celebrity, former President Bill Clinton. Jon Bon Jovi, who accompanied Obama from Washington on Air Force One, performed at one event and attended another. The singer’s enthusiastic backing of the party’s candidates extends back to Al Gore’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000.
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Fearless of contradiction, the president — whose campaign has attacked Romney relentlessly over his career at the private-equity fund Bain Capital — began the evening with an intimate 50-person crowd, who paid $40,000 each to attend a gathering at the home of billionaire hedge fund manager Marc Lasry. Guests were crammed into the Avenue Capital Group chief’s ornate living room, where the president and Clinton spoke beneath a gold-framed Degas, according to a pool report.
The former chief executive — the depth of whose support for Obama recently has been questioned — told the group that a Romney victory “would be in my opinion calamitous for our country and the world.” Obama, Clinton said, has the “right economic policy and the right political approach, and I think that their economics are wrong headed and their politics are worse.”
Assessing the electorate for the group, Obama said, “When things are tough, you’re willing to try just about anything, even if you’ve seen it before.” That, he said, made it imperative for the Democrats to get a “clear message out about how we intend to grow the middle class, how we’re going to create jobs and how our positions are squarely in the center of America’s positions.
We’re not the ones who’ve changed. … If you look at what the Republican Party today represents, we haven’t moved that much. Our basic policies haven’t shifted. … What has changed is the Republican Party. They have run from a preference for market-based solutions to an absolutism when it comes to the marketplace — a belief that all regulations are bad, that government has no role to play.”
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Obama then moved on in a motorcade along Park Avenue to a gala at the Waldorf-Astoria, where a far-larger crowd of 500 attendees paid $2,500 each to hear the chief executive speak and Bon Jovi perform.
The evening was set to conclude with a Broadway celebration at the New Amsterdam Theatre, where a crowd of 1,700 heard remarks by Obama and performances by such theater stalwarts as Patti Lupone, James Earl Jones, Manny Patinkin, Stockard Channing, Angela Landsbury, playwright Tony Kushner, Nina Arianda, Kerry Butler, Norbert Leo Butz, Bobby Cannavale, Chuck Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Audra McDonald, Hettienne Park, Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Wright.
Tickets for that larger-scale event were a populist $250 each.
As has become customary for the Obama campaign since the wild success of an online contest to win tickets to dinner with the president and George Clooney, three winners and their companions who contributed to the re-election effort via the Internet were awarded tickets to the gala and the Broadway concert and given a chance to chat with both Obama and Clinton at the Waldorf-Astoria.
The winners were Francisco Maldonado, who runs a small Chicago web design firm; Rachel Klick, who works at a Falls Church, Va., nonprofit involved in international development (she was accompanied by her boyfriend, who did two tours of combat duty in Iraq); and Joe Ardito, who works in human resources in Estes Park, Colo.
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