NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama opened a weeklong fundraising spree for his party Tuesday, telling high-dollar donors in New York and Connecticut that Democrats have facts and history on their side. Yet there still were no signs that Obama planned to take that message directly to voters by appearing on the campaign trail with his party's candidates.
Even while he raises money in private homes from coast to coast, Obama's public campaign schedule is getting off to a late start. Although the White House says Obama will start appearing with candidates as early as next week, no events have been announced.
Obama's absence from the campaign trail, less than a month out from Election Day, underscores the limits to Obama's ability to help his party in the midterms, his own political baggage a potential liability for Democrats who campaign with him publicly.
"I'm profoundly optimistic about America. I need you to be also," Obama told Democratic donors. "And then I need you to express your optimism not just by voting yourselves, but by getting involved."
Obama's fundraising jaunt kicked off Tuesday in New York, where police shut down streets as his motorcade rolled through Manhattan to a pair of fundraisers for the Democratic Party. Roughly two dozen donors paid up to $32,400 to attend a closed-door discussion with Obama, with another 250 donors writing $1,000 checks to see Obama at a reception.
Under crystal chandeliers at a ritzy restaurant in the Tribeca neighborhood, Obama accused Republicans of wanting to limit America's prosperity to those at the top while obstructing his efforts to raise wages, improve education and fix immigration laws. He said Democrats would prevail if they were able to persuade enough of their voters to show up at the polls on Election Day.
"The good news is the American people are on our side," Obama said.
Then he hopped aboard Marine One for the short flight to Greenwich, Connecticut, where his helicopter touched down in a sprawling polo field not far from the stately home of Rich Richman. The real estate developer opened his home to Obama and donors to the Senate Democrats' campaign arm for Obama's third fundraiser of the day.
Obama's fundraising appearances began a week of events intended to shore up the party committees working to keep the Senate in Democratic hands, limit GOP gains in the House and pick up as many governor's seats as possible. On Thursday, the president opens a three-day fundraising swing through California.
All those events will take place in private, sparing the candidates on the ballot from a presidential photo op that could wind up in a Republican campaign ad. Just 4 in 10 Americans approved of Obama's job performance in an Associated Press-GfK poll this summer.
Obama has promised this year to go all out for Democrats, and he's already held dozens of private Democratic fundraisers. But the White House says Obama's public campaign schedule — initially expected to pick up in late September — had to be pushed back as the president juggled a dizzying array of crises, ranging from the Islamic State group to Ebola.
Obama still plans to spend a few days a week for the rest of October outside Washington, helping rally support for Democrats in key races, aides said, with his schedule ramping up in the final days before the Nov. 4 elections. He'll also appeal to voters through radio ads, robo-calls and digital advertising aimed at revving up minorities and young voters whose sky-high turnout in 2008 helped fuel Obama's win.
With voters opposed to Obama in conservative-leaning states like Arkansas and Alaska where Democrats are fighting their toughest Senate races, Obama will focus on just a handful of states where he can potentially help. He will focus more on gubernatorial races, and he is expected to campaign in Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to name a few. He will spend little time on individual House races.
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