By Scott Wilson
LAS VEGAS — Before highlighting the plight of underwater homeowners, of which there are many out here in the desert, President Obama on Monday had a little business of his own to attend to: Raising more campaign money.
Obama landed in Las Vegas to start a three-day West Coast swing and headed for the Bellagio Hotel for the first of a series of fundraisers with big names and big spenders.
The Bellagio event, a $1,000-a-plate fundraising luncheon, was expected to draw 300 attendees, each of whom contributed between $1,000 to the legal maximum of $35,800.
Among the event’s hosts were hotel executive Stephen Cloobeck and his wife, Chantal; Dr. Rachakonda Prabu and Lata Prabu; and James Murren, chairman and chief executive of the MGM Mirage and his wife, Heather, chairman and chief executive of the Nevada Cancer Institute.
“I’m here today not just because I need your help, again, but because the country needs your help,” Obama told the audience. “If you thought the last election was important. . .what happens in the coming year will be even more consequential. It’s going to matter to your kids, it’s going to matter to your grandkids.”
In a speech laced with partisan criticism of the Republican stand against his jobs bill, Obama said he has been confronting two problems – “an economic crisis” and a “political crisis.”
“The ideas that the other side is propagating, we’ve tried,” Obama said. “What they’re proposing, we tried for 10 years. Remember? Does anyone remember?”
Then he asked, “Where did we end up?”
His answer: With a struggling middle class that tried to make up for stagnating wages through borrowing that resulted in a “housing bubble,” with popped with devastating consequences along the cul-de-sac streets of this once-thriving city.
Obama’s three-day swing through Nevada, California, and Colorado will include only two public events – plus an appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” his second as president. The rest will be dedicated to the pay-per-view work of raising money.
After his stop here, Obama was scheduled to head to Los Angeles, where he will attend a pair of fundraisers Monday evening hosted by Hollywood glitterati.
One will take place at the home of the actress Melanie Griffith and her husband, the actor Antonio Banderas. The other will be hosted by actor Will Smith and his wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, at their home.