NEW YORK - Facing a tightening presidential race and onslaught of cash from pro-Republican outside groups, President Obama tonight got a boost from some of his loyal allies in the film and fashion industries with an exclusive multimillion dollar campaign fundraiser at the home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband, actor Matthew Broderick.
A party of 50 donors, each paying $40,000 to attend, gathered around a long table just inside the entryway of Parker's four-story brownstone in the West Village to dine with the president and First Lady Michelle Obama. Spotted at the table were actress Meryl Streep, producer Andy Cohen, designer Michael Kors, "Vogue" editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, and actress Olivia Wilde. (Broderick was not in attendance; the president noted he "had a show to run off to.")
President Obama, standing in close quarters with his guests and members of the press pool brought in to hear the remarks, spoke candidly about the challenges of the general election race underway.
"We're going to have to fight for it because the American people are tired, they've gone through a very tough economy. They're still having a tough time. And that's why this election is going to be close," Obama said.
"The other side is going to spend $500 million with a very simple message, which is 'You're frustrated, you're disappointed, and it's the fault of the guy in the White House.' And that's an elegant message. It happens to be wrong. But it's crisp. You can fit it on a bumper sticker.
"So we're going to have to work hard in this election. We're going to have to work harder than we did in 2008," he said.
Obama underscored a point he made earlier in the day during a campaign speech in Cleveland, casting the November vote as a stark choice between his economic visions and those of GOP rival Mitt Romney. And he charged his supporters with helping to make the case to the American people.
"What we're going to have to do is present that choice," he said. "You're the tie-breaker, you're the ultimate arbiter."
Parker - dressed in a navy lace cocktail dress with three-quarter length sleeves, a jewel-studded necklace and an enormous diamond ring - appeared emotionally engaged with the president's message, indicating in her introduction of the Obamas that she is eager to help him win a second term.
"It is a great, a rare, a very special and I'm assuming a singular treat to welcome you into our home - our radiant, our extraordinary first lady," Parker said motioning to Michelle Obama, who was seated beside her at the head of the table.
"You've done amazing important things these past four years…. I very much look forward to the things you're going to accomplish in the next four years," she said of the first lady. Parker then turned to the president, standing a few feet away, saying the crowd was gathered "hopefully and with enormous enthusiasm" for the "beloved current and future president of the United States."
Taking the microphone in the intimate space, Obama thanked "Sarah Jessica" and "her whole crew" as "great friends" and a "great leader and champion on behalf of the arts." He also hailed Wintour, calling her "Anna," as a "great friend" who is "working really hard here … and in Chicago as well."
"I recognize that most of you are here to see Michelle," Obama joked. "I always explain I rank fifth in the hierarchy in the White House. There's Michelle, my mother-in-law, the two girls and Bo. So that actually makes it six. In terms of star wattage, people come to the White House and say, Where's Michelle?"
The president then publicly hailed his wife: "Some of you know that Michelle had some skepticism about a life in politics. I think that's well known. And so the grace and the strength and the poise and the warmth that she has brought to an extraordinarily difficult task as first lady and still being the best mom couldn't make me prouder. I'm very pleased she's here. This is sort of our date night."
As Obama spoke, holding a microphone in the small space, Parker's 9-year-old son - sporting a short sleeve dress shirt and tie - looked on from a few feet away. When the president mentioned that U.S. automaker GM is "back on top," the child started clapping, impromptu. "That's worth applauding," Obama said with a grin as the room laughed and joined in. "Right on cue," Obama said.
The Parker event was expected to net more than $2 million in ticket sales alone for the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising account for the Obama Campaign and Democratic National Committee. An online grassroots fundraising contest in conjunction with the dinner also netted several million dollars, officials said.
Robin Hunt of Baltimore, Md., was named the lucky winner of the contest, according to the campaign. She and her mother, Elvita, of Winston-Salem, N.C., received an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the dinner and meet the president and first lady.