, WASHINGTON, Mar 17 – US President Barack Obama, juggling dual roles as fundraiser extraordinaire and commander-in-chief, piled up a cool five million dollars in a lucrative single-day campaign blitz.
In no other country is a leader expected to tend to a deteriorating war he is leading in Afghanistan on the same day as conducting the business of stuffing millions into his war chest to bankroll his own political career.
But such is the cost of running for president in America, where campaign teams play on a vast and complex political map, building expensive grass roots get-out-the-vote networks and million-dollar advertising blasts.
Obama started Friday in Washington, in the early hours, trying to talk President Hamid Karzai down from his fresh broadside at America’s war strategy, as the Afghan leader fumes after a US soldier apparently launched a rampage killing 16 civilians.
Later Obama was aboard Air Force One as it nosed into murky skies over Washington, heading to a five-event, two-city, 1700-mile (2,700-kilometer) odyssey of fund-raisers in a vast hotel ballroom, a huge film studio, and intimate living room setting.
Going home to Chicago for four hours, Obama amassed $2.1 million, first giving a pep talk to 600 loyal supporters – who paid at least $2,500 a head – in a ballroom under glistening chandeliers.
Obama’s mission: inspire the hoards who gathered at his 2008 victory rally in a nearby park to sign up to fight one more battle.
“As much as 2008 was exciting and as much as all of us, I think, saw that night in Grant Park as the culmination of something – it was actually just the beginning of what we are fighting for,” Obama said.
“That is what 2012 is about. I know it’s been a tough few years, I know that when you see what’s going on in Washington sometimes it is tempting to believe that what we believed in 2008 was an illusion.
“It is easy to slip back into cynicism. Remember what we said in the last campaign. Real change would be hard.”
Then, Obama retreated to more exclusive company – a roundtable for 60 well-heeled supporters who were each paying at least $10,000 for some face-time with the local boy made good.
Obama has already raised more than $140 million for his re-election bid and experts believe he is well on the way to trumping the more than $700 million he piled up in his 2008 run.
He will likely fall short though of the staggering one billion dollar figure some campaign watchers expected him to haul in.
Money may be even more important to Obama this year than in 2008.
Thanks to a much-debated Supreme Court decision, individual donors and corporations are now free to throw unlimited millions into so-called Super PAC committees to support a candidate and savage his opponents.
Republicans, who believe Obama’s presidency is a bust with unemployment at 8.3 percent and gasoline prices on the rise, see the unshackled system as a way to compete with Obama’s fundraising prowess.
Though Obama’s events have been taking on a more partisan tone, the White House insists that the president – kept waiting by a winding Republican nominating race to determine his opponent in November’s election – is not campaigning.
But days like Friday, which came after a brawling partisan trip to Ohio by Vice President Joe Biden and release of a campaign film glorifying the president as a steely leader, make that conceit harder to maintain.
Obama on Friday took his total to 110 fundraisers since he launched his bid for the second term that all presidents crave.
They have ranged from big rallies to small affairs where the richest donors pay up to $35,800 to break bread with the president, ask him questions away from the prying eyes of the press, and get to bend his ear on a pet cause.
After Chicago, Obama headed to the Deep South. In an Atlanta living room he gathered with a deep-pocketed, largely African-American set, after evoking screams by plunging into a crowd of neighbours outside.
“As satisfied as I am with some of the progress we’ve made… I know we have still got a lot of work to do,” Obama said, as admirers crowded around.
“The good news is, because of people like you, I expect to have another five years to do it,” he said to whoops and cheers, at an event where tickets cost $10,000 a head.
Later Obama headed to the studios of African-American actor/producer Tyler Perry, where about 1,000 people paid $250-$500 to attend.
He then repaired to Perry’s chateau-style mansion, where 40 guests, including Obama supporter and talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, spent just over an hour with the president.
According to campaign figures, the minimum take from Friday’s events was $4.8 million, but the true figure was likely over $5 million.