President Barack Obama arrived in New York City Thursday to make the case for his own re-election bid, mingling his political and economic agendas as he tried to stay ahead of the Republicans chasing after his job.
"I hope you know that the values you cherish, what you stand for, what you believe in, are the things I cherish and I believe in and I'm willing to fight for," Obama said at Daniel, an exclusive Manhattan restaurant, in the first of four glitzy fundraisers.
The president told top donors in New York that he had made American foreign policy stronger during his first term, vowing that U.S. support for Israel's security is "nonnegotiable." He also defended his administration's approach to Iran, saying even Tehran has acknowledged that U.S. sanctions are having an impact.
The New York itinerary included a $35,800 per ticket fundraiser at the home of film director Spike Lee and an event starting at $100 per ticket at the famed Apollo Theater featuring performances by Al Green and India.Arie.
Outside the theater, more than 100 people demonstrated on behalf of several groups, including Occupy Wall Street and MoveOn.org, and some carried signs that read "Obama Wall Street Stooge" and "Capitalism (equals) 'Democracy' for Billionaires."
Obama, who raised more than $220 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the end of 2011, told supporters that the 2012 campaign would be difficult.
"This is still going to be a tough race, regardless of who they nominate," he said, but told donors at another event that he was "very confident" of winning re-election.
Obama said the election would be "as stark a choice as we have seen," noting that he shared similar views with 2008 GOP nominee John McCain on banning torture, climate change and closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "If you've been listening to the Republican debates, they have moved. I've stayed here. They've gone in a different direction."