NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama turned to the bright lights of Broadway and celebrity backers Thursday night to raise money for his re-election bid.
The presidential motorcade crisscrossed Manhattan as Obama worked his way through three events that raised money for the Democratic Party and his 2012 campaign. Key Obama fundraisers have been asked to raise $60 million for that effort by the end of June.
The fundraisers included an event on a Broadway stage, where Obama spoke to supporters who bought tickets, starting at $100, to watch a performance of the musical "Sister Act."
The fundraisers were part of a two-day trip that took Obama away from Washington as Republicans pulled out of debt-reduction talks and pressed the president to take a more active role in the negotiations.
Obama opened his fundraising trip with a quick stop at the upstate New York military base Fort Drum, where he defended his freshly unveiled plans to bring 33,000 troops home from Afghanistan by September 2012.
But in New York City, his agenda was all about raising money and urging ambivalent supporters to open their wallets again, even though they may be dissatisfied with some of his policies over the past two years.
At a high-dollar dinner at the exclusive New York restaurant Daniel, Obama urged his supporters to recapture the enthusiasm from the 2008 campaign, even though he's now "old news."
"I know that it's not going to be exactly the same as when I was young and vibrant and new," he said.
Ticket prices for the dinner were $35,800 a person.
Obama also turned to some celebrities to make the case for his re-election.
At a fundraiser for gays and lesbians, actor Neil Patrick Harris touted Obama's work in overturning the military's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay service members.
Later, Obama ducked into the Broadway Theater after the conclusion of "Sister Act" so he could speak to donors. Actress Whoopi Goldberg, one of the show's producers, introduced the president and told the crowd Obama needs four more years to finish the job he has started.
With Obama's 2012 campaign kicking into high gear, advisers are telling donors privately that they hope to match or exceed the $750 million raised in 2008. Some estimates say the 2012 re-election campaign could pull in $1 billion.
Republicans were quick to criticize Obama's fundraising blitz through Manhattan.
"While President Obama tries to escape the pressures of his failed economic policies with a fundraiser in New York, millions remain out of work and are beginning to realize that the only job our president is concerned about is his own," said Ryan Tronovitch, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
From New York, Obama was heading to Pittsburgh, where he was to speak at a manufacturing event Friday.
The money raised at Thursday's events go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising account by the Democratic National Committee and Obama's campaign.
At Victory Fund events, the first $5,000 of a donor's contribution goes to the presidential campaign and the remainder goes to the DNC, up to a maximum of $30,800 a year.