President Barack Obama plunged into donor-rich New York on Wednesday, his first fundraising sweep of the city since announcing his re-election bid this month, with a lament that he has not seen his wish for less-polarizing politics realized.
"The hope that I had that we'd start coming together in a serious way ... has been resisted," Obama told 60 contributors gathered for dinner at the Central Park home of financier and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.
His intention, Obama said, is to make the 2012 campaign an "election in which we're not just talking slogans ... but we are looking soberly at the choices we face."
The president's donor outreach came on a whirlwind day that began by taking on "birthers" who dispute that he was born in the United States and by producing his detailed birth certificate. He also flew home to Chicago to help pal and supporter Oprah Winfrey close out her syndicated talk show with a "big get" — an interview with him.
"Today was a fun day," Obama said at his first fundraising event at Corzine's apartment. "Nobody checked my ID at the door. But it was also a serious day because part of what happened this morning was me trying to remind the press and trying to remind both parties that what we do in politics is not a reality show. It's serious."
Before an audience of 350 people at his second stop, The Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Obama talked about the 10 letters he reads nightly from ordinary Americans who write to him about their troubles. He said the letters are both inspiring and heartbreaking and that they remind him of why he wanted to be president.
"It's to be an advocate for all those families, to make sure that America is as good to the next generation as it's been to all of us," he said before launching into his argument about why his budget proposal would be less painful for the poor and the powerless than one advanced by House Republicans.
Obama was expected to raise between $2 million and $3 million from the fundraisers, to be shared by the Democratic Party and his campaign. He was due back at the White House in the wee hours of Thursday.