The two men teamed up for the first time since Clinton put Obama'scampaign on the defensive last week when he became the mostprominent Democrat to disavow their attacks on Republicanchallenger Mitt Romney's record as a private equity executive. But there was no sign of discord as Obama and Clinton put up a showof unity in New York, kicking off a night of fundraising thatincluded a dinner with big-money donors, a gala at the ritzyWaldorf Astoria hotel and a star-studded "Barack on Broadway"concert. The events raised more than $3.5 million. Clinton, white-haired and slimmed down from his White House years,told a reception hosted by billionaire hedge fund manager MarcLasry that Obama must "win this election and win it unambiguously." "The alternative would be, in my opinion, calamitous for ourcountry and the world," Clinton said as the two presidents stoodshoulder to shoulder in a living room of a luxury home in a swankUpper East Side neighborhood. Obama and Clinton have had a sometimes strained relationship sincethe former Illinois senator beat the former president's wifeHillary Clinton, now secretary of state, in a bitter race for the2008 Democratic presidential nomination. |
But Clinton remains a figure deeply admired by most Democrats, andObama's aides believe his support could be pivotal for pulling incampaign money and selling independent voters on the president'seconomic plans. Clinton oversaw one of the most prosperous economic times in recentU.S. history and was the last president to balance the federalbudget, something Democrats are keen to remind Americans of beforethe November 6 election. At Lasry's luxurious Manhattan home, where diners paid $40,000 aplate, Clinton accused Romney of wanting to pursue "wrong-headed"economic policies and linked the Republican's focus on budgetausterity to crisis-hit Europe. Obama reminded the well-heeled audience that Clinton had presidedover "one of the greatest booms that we've seen ..
Everybody didwell." He avoided some of the anti-business rhetoric that his campaign hasused recently, casting himself as a friend of free enterprise, butasserted that Republicans had adopted a policy of market"absolutism." Obama, neck-and-neck with Romney in the polls, could use all thehelp he can muster after dismal jobs numbers last Fridayunderscored the weakness of the economy and the challenge he facesas he tries to convince voters to give him a second term. The U.S.jobless rate ticked up to 8.2 percent in May. Clinton's fundraising prowess is also seen as more important thanever as Obama's advisers grow increasingly concerned that hiscampaign-money advantage as sitting president could be undercut byoutside conservative groups spending big to attack his record. Romney was scheduled at a private fundraiser in Portland, Oregon,before heading to raise money in Seattle, Washington. Both statesare widely seen as sure wins for Obama in the November election.
CLINTON OFF-MESSAGE? What the White House may not have counted on from Clinton was hishabit of speaking his mind - even when that means going off-messagefrom the Obama campaign. Clinton, in a CNN interview last week, praised Romney for a"sterling business career" and expressed misgivings about the Obamacampaign's strategy of attacking his role at Bain Capital where hemade his fortune. Several other Democratic politicians have also raised questionswhether the Bain-related broadsides against Romney backfire withvoters by coming across as anti-free enterprise. In the CNN interview, Clinton - the last Democrat to serve twoterms - made clear, however, his belief that Obama was best-suitedto the presidency and predicted he would win re-election.
Romney has staked his claim to the presidency by playing up hisexperience at Bain. But Obama's aides have sought to cast hisbusiness record as that of a job-cutting corporate raider and haverecently broadened their criticism to his time as Massachusettsgovernor. Obama has angered some corporate executives with what they see asanti-business rhetoric, but that has not deterred him from courtingWall Street for campaign contributions. Their next stop was rally of about 500 supporters at the WaldorfAstoria where Jon Bon Jovi was due to perform, with ticket pricesstarting at $2,500.
And their evening in New York was set to end with Obama and Clintononstage at a $250-a-seat concert fundraiser at the 1,700-seat NewAmsterdam Theatre, home of Disney's "Mary Poppins." Obama and Clinton were due to appear together with a number ofBroadway stars, including James Earl Jones, Stockard Channing,Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury, Mandy Patinkin and Neil PatrickHarris. Republicans have mocked Obama for his cozy ties with theshow-business set. He will fly to Los Angeles for a fundraisingdinner with gay and lesbian supporters later this week and willreturn to New York on June 14 to headline an event hosted by "Sexand the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker. It was Obama's second time sharing the fundraising spotlight withClinton during the 2012 campaign. The two teamed up in April for anappearance in McLean, Virginia, where they raised more than $2million.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman).
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