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Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 03/29/2011

Obama visits New York for fundraising and interviews

Updated, 6 p.m.

Less than 24 hours after delivering a major policy address on Libya, President Obama shifted into another role of a modern president: fundraiser-in-chief.

Obama is spending Tuesday night at two different fundraising events in Harlem. The first is billed as a “small dinner and discussion,” with Obama at Red Rooster, a new restaurant run by Marcus Samuelsson, a chef who cooked at the state dinner Obama hosted for the prime minister of India in 2009. (Check out the restaurant’s menu.)

About 50 guests are expected, according to sources, and they will have donated to the Democratic National Committee $30,800, the yearly maximum. An hour later, Obama will attend a “thank you reception” for a larger group of past donors at the Studio Museum, an art center in Harlem. The reception is not a fundraiser, but the president is likely to encourage these donors to give when he ramps up his reelection effort.

Harlem is historically known as a center of black culture both in New York and nationally, but the events are not aimed principally at African Americans but major donors overall. Longtime Democratic donors say Obama needs to woo the big money elite of his party, some of whom have felt annoyed by his occasional bashing of big business as well as Obama’s limited outreach to donors over the past two years.

Obama held similar events in Washington this month, and the man he has tapped to be his campaign manager, Jim Messina, has been meeting Democratic donors across the country.

“It’s a different climate” than in 2008, said one longtime Democratic party donor. “The donor community has been disengaged from the White House.”

The donor outreach is only the end of a long Tuesday for Obama in New York. After he arrived Tuesday afternoon, the president held individual interviews with ABC, CBS and NBC that will be aired on their evening news programs as he tries to explain his Libya policy.

The president is constantly interviewed by individual outlets, but this full blitz is unusual, although he did it early in 2009 after Thomas A. Daschle’s surprise withdrawal as the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services because of tax problems, and later that year to push his health-care bill.

Obama then made a suprise visit to the New York City Science and Engineering Fair at the Natural History Museum. The president, who has frequently stopped at science fairs over the last month as he promotes science and education in “Winning the Future” mantra, walked around as students showed him their projects.

“If I’m nodding, you should just assume that everything you said is going completely over my head,” he told the students. “Because you are all much smarter than me.”

Obama also attended an event at the United Nations to dedicate a building in honor of Ron Brown, the longtime Democratic party official who was serving as secretary of commerce in the Clinton administration until he died in a plane crash in 1996. While spending much of his speech on Brown, Obama again defended his intervention into Libya.

“Today in Libya, we are showing what’s possible when we find our courage, when we fulfill our responsibilities and when we come together, as an international community, to defend our common interests and our common values,” he said. “We’re saving innocent lives. We’re making it clear that the United States of America, and the world, stand with those who seek to determine their own destiny, free from fear, and free to dream of a day when they, too, can live in justice and dignity.”

By Perry Bacon Jr.  |  06:00 PM ET, 03/29/2011

 
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