President Barack Obama assembled what he called his own basketball “dream team,” calling in retired basketball greats Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing to help him raise more than $3 million for his re-election.
Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships, co-hosted a dinner last night in New York for 120 people who paid $20,000 each to attend.
“We are in the fourth quarter, we’re up by a few points, but the other side is coming strong and they play a little dirty,” Obama said. “Nobody knows better than Michael that, if you’ve got a little bit of a lead and there’s about seven minutes left to go, that’s when you put them away.”
Obama is raising campaign cash as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and allied groups entered August with more money to spend than Obama and the Democrats.
Along with Ewing, who played most of his career with the New York Knicks and was Jordan’s teammate on the U.S.’s 1992 Olympic “Dream Team,” the dinner at the Lincoln Center included current NBA stars such as Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat along with Penny Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning, who are retired. NBA Commissioner David Stern also attended.
After dinner, Obama participated in an informal shoot-around with the NBA players and other guests, according to campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. That portion of the evening was closed to the media.
“He’s not taking any one-on-one game tonight,” Jordan said in introducing the president.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he didn’t know if the president has been practicing his shot, though he did play a game last weekend.
Before dinner, the NBA players, along with Sheryl Swoopes, the first player signed to the Women’s National Basketball Association, participated in an autograph signing event for the campaign that has sold 400 tickets at $250 per. Planned for later was a skills camp, with tickets at $5,000 for 100 donors.
Obama sought to rally supporters earlier yesterday by warning his challenger will have more money for the campaign.
“We will see the other side spend more money than we’ve ever seen on ads,” Obama told an audience in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Mr. Romney, my opponent, his main economic plan is to give everybody in this room a tax cut,” Obama told the NBA crowd in New York. “Now some of you may find that appealing, but the fact of the matter is we can’t afford it.”
Romney called yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report that U.S. debt will total 73 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product this year “unacceptable.” It’s the fourth year in a row that the U.S. would run a trillion-dollar budget deficit, according to the CBO.
“I will finally cut federal spending, encourage growth and by virtue of those get America to a balanced budget,” Romney told supporters at a fundraising event yesterday in Little Rock, Arkansas, that organizers said raised more than $2 million.
More than 250 tickets were sold at prices ranging from $2,500 to $50,000. Attendees, all from Arkansas, included Senator John Boozman, Representatives Tim Griffin, Rick Crawford and Steve Womack, as well as Chairman Claiborne Deming of El Dorado, Arkansas-based Murphy Oil Corp.
Romney, the Republican National Committee and two allied super-political action committees reported a combined bank account balance of $169 million on July 31, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission. That compared with $107 million for the president, the Democratic National Committee and the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action.
By itself, Obama’s campaign committee outpaced Romney’s. In the last tally of campaign cash before the national party conventions, Obama brought in $49.2 million to $40.3 million for Romney in July. The Republican National Committee overcame that deficit by itself, raising $37.9 million, while its Democratic counterpart reported $10 million in receipts.
The Republican committee’s cash-on-hand advantage of $88.8 million to $15.4 million for the Democratic National Committee more than overcame Obama’s edge over Romney. The Obama campaign committee reported $87.7 million in its bank account entering August compared with $30.2 million for Romney.
Obama used the New York fundraiser to again decry the comments on rape and abortion by Todd Akin, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri. Akin, a six-term congressman seeking to unseat Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, said during an Aug. 19 interview that “legitimate rape” rarely leads to pregnancy.
“The interesting thing here is this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class,” Obama said. “It’s representative of the desire to go backward instead of forward and the fights that we thought were settled 20, 30 years ago.”
Obama’s remarks were laden with sports metaphors, and he drew a comparison with what he did for increased political participation in the 2008 election with how Jordan spurred interest among non-basketball fans in the 1990s.
“So this is my dream team,” Obama said. “It’s very rare that I come to an event where I am like the fifth or sixth most interesting person.”
He made a point to mention NBA all-stars who played at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in a key battleground state. “We have some Tar Heels in the House,” he said.
Jordan has “his North Carolina shorts under his suit,” Obama said. “And that’s important to note.”