President Barack Obama, turning full attention to his re-election campaign, aimed to raise more than $5 million today with fundraisers in his adopted hometown of Chicago and then Atlanta, where Oprah Winfrey joined with other wealthy donors.
Obama arrived in Chicago as two of the Republicans who want to challenge him in November, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, also had Illinois campaign events before the state’s March 20 presidential primary.
Obama then went on to Atlanta, where his stops included dinner for about 40 people, including Winfrey, at the home of actor and film producer Tyler Perry. There, Obama said of his presidency: “This is not a three-year project. This is an eight-year project,” prompting applause.
The president’s day-long fundraising drive followed yesterday’s release of a 17-minute documentary-style film intended to generate enthusiasm among supporters and Vice President Joe Biden’s first official campaign event in which he went on the offensive against the Republican candidates.
The first of Obama’s five stops was at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago, where about 600 people paid $2,500 a piece to watch the campaign film and listen to the president.
Without naming his would-be opponents, Obama said the state has “guests this week,” referring to the campaigning leading up to the primary.
Land of Lincoln
“Welcome to the Land of Lincoln,” Obama said. Taking an indirect dig at his rivals, he said that he hoped “maybe some Lincoln will rub off on them while they are here,” and told the audience to prepare for “an avalanche of attack ads.”
The state’s Republican Party chairman, Pat Brady, criticized Obama for concentrating on his campaign.
“After three years of failed policies, broken promises and a seemingly endless supply of empty rhetoric, it is abundantly clear that President Obama has given up on governing and is only concerned about campaigning to save his own job,” Brady said in an e-mailed statement.
After the speech, the president held a closed discussion with about 60 supporters who donated at least $10,000 each.
In Atlanta, Obama began his fundraising at a private residence where 75 people paid $10,000 each to attend. He then greeted 1,000 supporters at Perry’s studios, an event that included a musical performance by Cee Lo Green. Most of the tickets started at $500 with a smaller number sold at $250, according to the campaign.
At the first Atlanta stop, Obama jabbed at the Republicans. “Their basic vision is, ‘You know what? I’ve got mine,’” he said. “And that’s why the other side really doesn’t talk about issues.”
Obama capped the day at Perry’s house. Tickets to that cost $35,800. Perry gave $30,400 on May 30, 2009, to the Democratic National Committee and $4,600 Sept. 12, 2007, to Obama’s first presidential campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks contributions.
The money raised today goes to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint account for the president’s campaign organization and the Democratic National Committee. Obama raised $140 million for his re-election campaign through the end of January, Federal Election Commission reports show.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, was the first of the Republicans to make a public appearance today, stopping by a pancake restaurant near the Chicago area’s O’Hare International Airport before his departure to Puerto Rico for campaigning there ahead of party caucuses this weekend.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, had events today in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois, and is scheduled to make campaign appearances across the state this weekend.