Obama attends pair of star-studded Manhattan fundraising events

President Obama teamed up with some of the fashion and entertainment industries' biggest stars Thursday night for a pair of big-name, top-dollar fundraisers in New York City.

Obama's first stop was the Manhattan townhouse of "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker for a $40,000-per-plate dinner. 

The event, co-hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, drew prominent names from the world of fashion and entertainment, including actress Meryl Streep, musician Aretha Franklin and fashion designers Michael Kors and Kenneth Cole.

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In his remarks to the celebrity crowd, the president depicted the 2012 election as one of more dire consequences — and one that will be tougher to win — than 2008.

"This election is more important than 2008 — because in 2008, as much as I disagreed with Mr. [John] McCain, he believed in climate change. He believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. And now what we have is a Republican nominee and a Republican Party that has moved fundamentally away from what used to be a bipartisan consensus about how you build an economy; that has said our entire agenda is based on cutting taxes even more for people who don’t need them and weren’t asking for them; slashing our commitment to things like education or science or infrastructure or a basic social safety net for seniors and the disabled and the infirm; that wants to gut regulations for polluters or those who are taking advantage of consumers," Obama said.

He also conceded the election would be close because Republicans had a compelling message, even if he found it inaccurate.

"At a certain point, the other side is going to spend $500 million with a very simple message, which is: 'You’re frustrated, you’re disappointed, and it’s the fault of the guy in the White House.'  And that’s a — it’s an elegant message. It happens to be wrong, but it’s crisp. You can fit it on a bumper sticker," Obama said.

The president later fielded questions from the assembled field of stars in a closed-press session moderated by Wintour.

After departing the townhouse, Obama traveled a short drive north to the Plaza Hotel, where he again addressed a high-dollar crowd. Singers Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys were on hand to provide entertainment.

At that stop, the president joked that Republicans wanted to give tax breaks to the wealthy — like "some in this room" — and that such a gathering was "what qualified as date night in the Obama household."

Amid the fundraising swing through Manhattan, the president did have one more somber event on his schedule: a stop at Ground Zero to survey the ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site.

While there, he and first lady Michelle Obama signed one of the final building beams to be installed at the new skyscraper at 1 World Trade Center. The president was joined at the event by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a top supporter of presumptive GOP Mitt Romney.