President Barack Obama is making the rounds in reliably Democratic California, joking with Jay Leno and tapping the coffers of wealthy, celebrity donors as he raises money for his re-election bid.
The president taped an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” that was scheduled to air Tuesday night. It’s his second stop on the show as sitting president and fourth appearance overall. From Los Angeles, Obama headed north to San Francisco for a fundraiser featuring a performance by folk rock singer-songwriter Jack Johnson. Obama also had fundraisers scheduled in Denver, all part of a three-day, three-state swing through the west.
Tuesday’s fundraisers follow star-studded campaign events in Los Angeles on Monday. Obama joined actor Will Smith and basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson at a dinner at the home of producer James Lassiter. Then he mingled with Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas over canapés at the movie star couple’s home just a few blocks away.
Obama was in California for money events last month. The state ranks as Obama’s top donor state, and he raised about $1 million in the Los Angeles area alone during the last two fundraising quarters, according to an Associated Press review of contributions above $200.
The western tour is one of Obama’s busiest donor outreach trips of the season. Celebrities are tried and true fundraising draw, particularly for Democratic presidents. Both the president and the stars bask in their reflected fame and the endorsement of stars can be a useful asset.
Not that he needs the votes here. California is a solidly Democratic state, though Sacramento-based Democratic consultant Roger Salazar said the president, echoing national trends, is less popular now in the state than he was when he was elected.
“Democrats by their nature are going to give the president the benefit of the doubt,” said Salazar, a veteran of California and national political campaigns. “But they want him to do something about it. They want to see some movement.”
Obama is promising some movement. He has been promoting his $447 billion jobs bill, which has been broken up into its component parts in hopes Congress can pass some of them.
Addressing about 240 donors at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas Monday, Obama said the pieces that Republicans reject would likely linger as campaign issues in 2012.
“This is the fight that we’re going to have right now, and I suspect this is the fight that we’re going to have to have over the next year,” Obama said. “The Republicans in Congress and the Republican candidates for president have made their agenda very clear.”
Addressing donors in Los Angeles, Obama ticked off his administration’s accomplishments, eager to reinvigorate supporters whose enthusiasm has flagged since his 2008 election.
“Sometimes I think people forget how much has gotten done,” the president said, as Smith and Johnson looked on. He urged his backers to rally once again, at the same time joking, as he often does, that he is older and grayer now. “This election won’t be as sexy as the first one.”
At Banderas’ and Griffith’s house, its entrance path lined with rose petals and votive candles, Obama told about 120 mostly Latino contributors that he has kept a list of his campaign promises and that, by his count, he has accomplished about 60 percent of them.
“I’m pretty confident we can get the other 40 percent done in the next five years,” he said toloud applause.
The Griffith-Banderas event was Obama’s first Latino fundraiser, with donors giving at least $5,000 per person to attend. It featured guests such as actress Eva Longoria, comedian George Lopez, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and mayors Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and Julian Castro of San Antonio.
Obama drew the loudest applause when he vowed to tackle an overhaul of immigration laws, a promise from 2008 that has gone unfulfilled in the face of Republican opposition.
The Las Vegas fundraiser attracted about 240 people who paid from $1,000 to $35,800 toward Obama’s re-election campaign and to the Democratic National Committee. The bigger donors met the president personally. Guests at Lassiter’s home contributed $35,800.
Obama has been displaying campaign-style vigor. At a Las Vegas subdivision where he promoted housing proposals, Obama waded into the neighborhood crowd to shake hands, sign autographs, even lift a baby.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Obama headed to a diverse neighborhood minutes from Lassiter’s home south of Hollywood and stopped at Roscoe’s, a popular Los Angeles chicken restaurant chain. Obama roved through the dining booths greeting customers, leaving at least one awestruck young boy holding his hand aloft after shaking the president’s hand. One man gave him a hug and a Hispanic man told his daughter that if she studied hard “you’ll be like him.”
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