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Robin Hunt of Baltimore won an online contest to attend Thursday’s dinner. She brought her mother, Elvita, a voter in North Carolina, a key election battleground state.

The contests typically ask donors to give $3 or whatever they can spare.

The Obama campaign calls it a way to lure donors who may not otherwise be involved in politics at all.

But implicit in the arrangement is that access to Obama, the president of the United States, is not enough of a draw. Obama’s campaign has gone so far as to make its next “Dinner With Barack” raffle more enticing by telling would-be donors that they can help pick Obama’s guest _ naming Clooney and Parker as examples.

All the star wattage comes as Obama’s campaign is warning supporters that they need to give or Obama could lose. Central to Obama’s strategy is having a larger number of people giving small-to-medium donations. His campaign says 98 percent of donations received in May came in amounts of $250 or less.

“The other side has the money,” campaign manager Jim Messina said in one appeal to donors. “They know they can buy the election if they spend it.”


Follow Julie Pace at /jpaceDC and Ben Feller at