SAN JOSE — President Obama opened a West Coast fundraising blitz Sunday with appearances at four events in Seattle and San Jose as his reelection campaign sought to make up ground after a series of summer setbacks.
With his popularity fading in national polls, Obama challenged his supporters to “shake off any doldrums” and recapture the yes-we-can attitude of his historic 2008 campaign.
“We need that spirit now more than ever,” he told an estimated crowd of 800, including basketball legend Bill Russell, at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. “I need you guys to shake off any doldrums. . . . Talk to your friends and neighbors and co-workers and tell them we’re not finished yet. There’s more work to do.”
In all, the president is scheduled to attend seven fundraising events during his three-day, three-state western swing. The visits could add more than $8 million to the coffers of the Obama 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
He also will participate in a town-hall-style event Monday in conjunction with the LinkedIn social-networking company to tout his $447 million American Jobs Act. And he is scheduled to visit a high school in Denver on Tuesday to highlight his proposal in the jobs package to spend $25 billion to renovate up to 35,000 schools.
But fundraising is the clear focus of the trip.
After raking in a record-breaking $86 million in the second quarter for his campaign and the DNC, Obama has dropped considerably behind that pace for the three months that will end next week. Campaign managers said they want to raise a combined $55 million in the third quarter.
A campaign official explained the drop by noting that Obama canceled 10 fundraisers in July and August during the heart of his debt-ceiling negotiations with Congress. And, the official added, the third quarter is historically the slowest fundraising period, with families on summer vacation and not thinking about politics.
With Obama's job-approval ratings hovering around 40 percent and his popularity numbers below 50 percent, there is growing fear among some supporters that his political problems are dampening enthusiasm among his base.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt disputed that Sunday.
“More than 552,000 Americans contributed to the campaign in the second quarter — more than in all of 2007 — including 260,000 who had never given before,” he said in an e-mail.
LaBolt added that 98 percent of contributions last quarter were in amounts of $250 or less. Only 6 percent of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign total came from similar small-dollar donations.
The 800 people at the Paramount, where the Robert Cray Band performed, paid for tickets that cost $100 and up. Before arriving at the theater, Obama made remarks at the home of Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, where 65 guests had contributed the maximum $35,800 each.
Obama told donors at Shirley’s residence that electing a Republican president would usher in “an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century,” and he cited the budget debate in Congress as part of “a constant ideological pushback” that his agenda has encountered since he took office.
He said the 2012 election will be “especially hard, because a lot of people are discouraged,” but he vowed to “keep drawing a clear contrast” between his vision and that of the GOP.
In San Jose, Obama was scheduled to attend a pair of private fundraisers at the homes of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Symantec chief executive John Thompson.
“There have been points at every juncture that have been discouraging. People felt like maybe change can’t happen, maybe we’re stuck, maybe America’s best days are behind us,” Obama said at the Paramount. “We are not people who sit back and give up, who let things happen to us. We make things happen.”