Fresh from announcing his support of same-sex marriage, President Obama headed Thursday night for a Hollywood campaign fundraiser that was projected to bring his re-election campaign nearly $15 million — a record for such an event — at the home of actor George Clooney.
About 150 supporters paid $40,000 per person for the intimate dinner catered by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, with figures such as Dreamworks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and actors Robert Downey Jr. and Tobey Maguire in attendance, for a total of about $6 million.
An additional $9 million or so was to be raised through a raffle in which tens of thousands of Americans paid an average of $23 for the chance to attend the event. The two winners were Beth Topinka of Manalapan, N.J., and Karen Blutcher of St. Augustine, Fla., both of whom were bringing their husbands.
The timing of the event, a day after Mr. Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, promised to make for a friendlier — and much more lucrative — party for the president. Stars in attendance, including Barbra Streisand and Mr. Clooney, have made a priority of recognizing gay marriages under the law.
“It does a lot financially,” said former Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the Republican Main Street Partnership. “You don’t want to go in there with everybody mumbling about it. If you’re going to do it, it’s good timing for it.”
And Mr. Obama will hold another fundraiser in New York on Monday where the audience will be intensely interested in the subject — an event sponsored by gay and Hispanic supporters.
The president’s decision to mingle with Hollywood stars, coupled with his high-profile announcement on gay marriage, prompted Republicans to accuse him of losing sight of the economy as the nation’s top priority.
“President Obama is headed to Hollywood to hobnob with celebrities while the middle class continues to be squeezed by Obama’s policies,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. “For 3½ years, we’ve had a celebrity president and, based on new polling in Ohio and Florida where an incumbent president is tied and his approval remains below 50 percent, Americans agree that it hasn’t worked out as everyone had hoped.”
And GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner showed no interest in engaging the president on the issue of gay marriage.
“The president and the Democrats can talk about all this all they want,” Mr. Boehner said Thursday. “But the fact is, the American people are focused on our economy, and they’re asking the question, ‘Where are the jobs?’ “
An Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday night seemed to back Mr. Boehner, showing that Americans are becoming more pessimistic about the state of the economy. A particularly large drop came among Democrats who said the economy’s state was “good” falling to just 31 percent, compared with 48 percent in February.
Gasoline prices are a particular sore spot for Mr. Obama, with 65 percent of Americans disapproving of Mr. Obama’s handling of them (44 percent “disapprove strongly”), up from 58 percent in February.
Later Thursday, Republicans pounced on a remark Mr. Obama made at another fundraiser Thursday in Seattle, where he was expected to collect at least $3 million toward his re-election bid.
After a video outlining the economic crisis of the last several years, Mr. Obama said that “sometimes people forget the magnitude of it … Sometimes, I forget.”
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told reporters that “it’s not surprising that a president who forgot to create jobs, forgot to cut the debt, and forgot to change Washington has now admitted that he’s forgotten about the recession … In November, the American people won’t forget.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One that anyone accusing Mr. Obama of neglecting the economy hasn’t been paying attention.
“The president’s focus … has been and will continue to be on jobs and the economy,” said Mr. Carney, displaying a “to-do list” for Congress.