Fresh off a bruising debt ceiling debate, and an announcement that the administration is pivoting back to a focus on jobs, Obama heads to his hometown Chicago tonight for a birthday-themed fundraiser at the historic Aragon Ballroom.
Organizers expect a crowd of roughly 1000 supporters, who each paid between $50 and $35,800 to attend. The money flows to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint account for Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Guests will be entertained with performances by Chicago-native musicians Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock and the rock group OK Go.
The president will also address the crowd around 8:15 pm ET, but will likely not be catching the musical show, a campaign aide said.
Before the speech, Obama plans to hold an exclusive, live-stream video teleconference with thousands of volunteers celebrating his birthday at one of 1,100 grassroots meetings across the country.
After his address at the Aragon, aides say, he will meet privately with a smaller group of VIP attendees, between 80 and 100, before returning to Washington for the night.
Republicans have unleashed a barrage of criticism against the president for making the trip, accusing him of hypocrisy during tough economic times.
“With 9.2 percent unemployment, he could work on creating jobs, but I suppose the White House is thinking he should stick to the part of his job he really likes,” said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski in an email statement.
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney also took a swipe at Obama for the trip, publishing an online video Tuesday that highlights a spike in Chicago’s unemployment rate and falling housing prices over the past three years.
Administration officials have dismissed the criticism.
“I think what the American people want to see is for us to move this [debt] debate behind us and move forward,” said senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett when asked Monday about the propriety of the trip on MSNBC. “The president’s number one focus is jobs, jumpstarting our economy. He’s going to be looking forward to traveling around the country and having that conversation.”