President Barack Obama soaked in the support — and the campaign cash — of Manhattan's elite entertainers Thursday as his re-election team sought to fill its fundraising coffers.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama made a rare joint fundraising appearance when they visited the home of actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. The intimate dinner banked about $2 million, with 50 people paying $40,000 each.
The dinner was the Obama campaign's latest attempt to bank on celebrities for fundraising help in countering the growing donor enthusiasm from Republicans supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid.
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation's future.
"You're the tie-breaker," he said. "You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes."
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama's remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent.
The president and Mrs. Obama also headlined a second glitzy fundraiser in Manhattan Thursday night that included a performance from singer Mariah Carey and remarks by singer Alicia Keys. The 250-person dinner yielded the Obama campaign at least $2.5 million.
While Democrats have long held political and ideological ties to the TV and movie industry, the dynamic is different this time for Obama. His own celebrity has faded a bit after more than three years in the slog of governing, and some reliable donors have gotten so used to seeing him, they want more — like a real movie star.
What's more, Obama's team is getting outraised by Republicans in a new, freewheeling environment, one in which wealthy donors can give unlimited amounts of money to outside political groups, known as super PACs, that can have huge sway over the presidential race.
As one counter-response, Obama is borrowing on the power of entertainers to give big bucks themselves and to encourage others to give what they can.