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Obama heads to L.A. for fund-raising push

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:15 AM EDT, Mon September 26, 2011
President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fundraiser on Sunday in Seattle.
President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fundraiser on Sunday in Seattle.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The president speaks Sunday at another fund-raiser at Seattle's Paramount Theatre
  • He rips "small politics" and says, "We are tougher than the times that we live in"
  • It is one of his first stops on a campaign swing through three Western states

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama will spend part of Monday hobnobbing with celebrities and other power-brokers in Los Angeles, continuing a West Coast trip that includes town hall events and fundraisers for his re-election campaign.

The first L.A. event will be hosted by "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson at the House of Blues in West Hollywood. With 1,000 attendees set to spend $250 each for the speech and a concert, the event is expected to help Obama collect a minimum of $250,000.

Then, Obama will head to the Fig and Olive, a restaurant on Los Angeles' trendy Melrose Place, for a private fund-raiser co-hosted by investment manager John Emerson, consultant Andy Spahn, Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon, a Democrat with knowledge of the event told CNN. The campaign official said the cost to attend is $17,900 per person.

By Sunday evening, that dinner had already brought in $1.5 million in for the Obama campaign in advance of the event, according to a second Democrat familiar with the event.

These fund-raisers follow similar events Sunday in Washington state, including a pitch in Seattle in which the president implored his supporters to rally behind him once again, saying that helping secure his re-election is the best way to turn around a sluggish economy and overcome strident political opposition.

"We are tougher than the times that we live in, we are bigger than the small politics that we've been witnessing," he told the audience at the city's Paramount Theatre. "We are a people who write our own destiny, and it is fully within our power to write it once more."

Obama took the stage after being introduced by basketball hall of famers Lenny Wilkens and Bill Russell, the latter imploring the crowd that "as Americans, we must support our president."

Wearing a tie and button-down shirt with his sleeves rolled up, the president began by referring to the "once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis" facing the nation, saying his administration knew "it was going to take years" to rebuild. The fundamental choice now, he argued, was to go forward with his and fellow Democrats' plans or use the "old worn-out ideas that were tried in the last decade."

"The question is not whether this country is going through times, the question is where are we going next," Obama said. "We can build the America that we talked about in 2008, an America where everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share. That is what this election is about."

The president touted initiatives such as the auto industry bailout, financial reform and the recent official repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that means gay men and lesbians can now serve openly in the military, a mention that drew fervent cheers from the crowd.

Then, as he has repeatedly since proposing it about two weeks ago, Obama touted the America Jobs Act as key to bolstering the economy by helping small businesses, boosting public education, improving infrastructure and other components.

He reiterated his support for tax reform that would pay for the bill, in part, by having wealthier Americans and profitable large corporations pay more in taxes. He added that he felt it is the government's responsibility to act immediately, and not wait for voters' decisions in November 2012 to act.

"It's time for us to meet our responsibility for each other right now," the president said. "(Citizens) don't have the luxury of us squabbling for another 14 months."

The speech came about six hours after Obama landed in Washington state late Sunday morning. He soon thereafter headed to a fund-raiser at the Medina, Washington, home of Jon Shirley, a former president and chief operating officer of Microsoft. In brief remarks there, he told the attendees that the upcoming campaign will be tough, especially in a climate in which many are disillusioned with government.

The president's job approval numbers remain low, just as the 2012 campaign is starting to heat up.

A USA Today/Gallup poll released last Wednesday -- based on a survey of 1,004 adults, and with a sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points -- found that 53% of the respondents blamed Obama a great deal or moderate amount for the continued economic sluggishness. The previous week, a CNN/ORC International poll showed Obama had a disapproval rating of 55%, the highest of his presidency, mirroring other national polling from Gallup and NBC/Wall Street Journal.

His current West Coast swing serves multiple purposes, from raising money for what promises to be a bruising campaign, to continuing the drumbeat for Congress to approve his jobs bill.

After his California visit, Obama will end his tour Tuesday in the swing state of Colorado with a speech at Denver's Abraham Lincoln High School.

CNN's Lesa Jansen and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.

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