President Obama asked for support Thursday from a small Los Angeles audience dotted with Hollywood stars.
Speaking in a tiny room of the Italian restaurant Tavern to a an audience of 60 that included Steven Spielberg, Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks and George Clooney, Obama said he understood frustration with his compromises with centrist Democrats and Republicans on healthcare, ending the Bush tax rates for the wealthy and other issues.
Over the past two and a half years, Obama said, he was sure there were times "where you're reading the papers or you're watching TV and you're saying, 'Ah, Obama, you know, why's he compromising with the Republicans?' Or 'Aw, why did healthcare take so long? and I want single-payer plan anyway.' "
The remark cracked the room of donors up, according to a White House pool report.
Obama, who returns to Washington from California on Friday, has held a series of fundraisers in the Golden State over the past two days as he completes a week of barnstorming across the country that foreshadows the presidential campaign.
The president has spoken to liberal supporters in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Palo Alto whose continued support will be critical if Obama's campaign is to meet a goal of raising $1 billion in campaign funds for 2012.
A big part of Obama's message on the West Coast has been that the White House has accomplished much, but that the president needs another four years to continue his work.
"We've pulled this economy out of a recession. We've stabilized the financial system. We've passed historic healthcare legislation to make sure 30 million people aren't going to go without coverage. We have repealed 'Don't ask, don't tell.' We have put two women on the Supreme Court, including the first Latina. We've passed equal pay for equal work.
"We can go down the list," Obama told the crowd. "But we also know we've still got a lot more work to do. We've just started, and we've got a lot more work to do."
Obama's 2008 campaign had serious backing from Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but the left has soured a bit on the White House over the course of Obama's time in office. A stepped-up effort in Afghanistan was a disappointment to the anti-war left, and Obama's decision to allow the Bush tax rates for wealthier taxpayers to be extended for two years more recently irritated liberals.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) recently said he and other members of Congress needed to pressure Obama to act more like a Democrat.
The White House has intensified its effort to attract independents to Obama's 2012 bid. Those voters were also critical to Obama's 2008 success, but polls suggest their support has weakened substantially. In working with Republicans on December's tax deal and, more recently, on spending cuts, the White House is making a play for independents. But this risks alienating the left.
The signs of frustration from liberal supporters of the president could be seen during his swing through California over the past few days — ten protesters broke into Obama's first fundraiser of the day on Thursday, singing, “We’ve paid our dues / Where’s our change?” at the San Francisco event.
And several picket signs could be seen along several of his motorcade routes voicing opposition to the U.S. military intervention in Libya.
At the Tavern event, at least, Obama seemed to make some headway.
Hanks, for one, could be seen turning to his table mates and saying: "Five-and-a-half more years."
This story was posted at 7:51 a.m. and updated at 8:31 a.m.