By Amie Parnes - 02/17/12 11:09 AM EST
SAN FRANCISCO — President Obama started, ended and filled his day Thursday with fundraising stops in California.
It’s the first day of the year that the president’s public schedule included nothing but back-to-back campaign events, and it came as part of a three-day trip expected to add $3 million to the Obama reelection coffers.
The Northern California fundraisers came on the heels of a strong fundraising push in Los Angeles, where the president collected checks from the glitterati.
"America is moving on the right track," he said, adding that the economy is still "healing."
He acknowledged concerns from some that the campaign is "not as new...not as trendy as it was in 2008 but that "change remains possible," with persistence and hard work.
"We're gonna have to feel as determined...as we were in 2008," he told a crowd of 70 supporters.
Call it the start of the post-super-PAC era of the Obama campaign.
As his GOP opponents keep beating up on one another in the Republican primary, Obama has entered a new phase of his reelection bid — and he’s cashing in on it.
On the heels of his decision to embrace the Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA, it’s clear Obama and his campaign are trying to get as far ahead of his future opponent as possible with an aggressive fundraising drive.
“The shift is clear,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Now is the time for fundraising and stump speeches. As Republicans fight among themselves and the economy starts to show some signs of revival, President Obama wants to take advantage of the moment to start making his case and to build a campaign war chest that will be hard for the GOP to replicate in the fall.”
All day on Thursday, Obama sought to define his reelection battle and tried to reenergize supporters, telling crowds at each fundraiser that he needs them to step up in the coming months in his reelection bid.
“We’re gonna have to feel as determined… as we were in 2008,” the president told a crowd of 70 supporters at a private residence on Thursday night, adding that his campaign is “not as new…not as trendy” as it was four years go.
Later in the evening at another fundraiser at a local theater, Obama stood before a raucous crowd of 2,900, and ticked off a list of his accomplishments in office.
During the speech, he acknowledged that “the change we fought for in 2008 has come in fits and starts and sometimes it hasn’t come as fast as folks wanted,” but “big change is hard and it takes time,” he said.
While Republican critics scoff that the White House is in campaign mode 24/7, Obama to date has left most of the overt campaign events for evenings.
But Thursday’s shift was palpable even to Democrats, who say this year’s race is gearing up to be unlike any other.
“The classic reelection strategy is to wait as long as possible before hitting the trail in order to take full advantage of incumbency,” said Democratic strategist David Meadvin. “Presidents usually want to be viewed as working, not campaigning. But this election is different. With absolutely no legislative agenda on Capitol Hill and congressional approval flirting with single digits, it makes sense for the president to avoid Washington like the plague this year.”
And Obama has time on his side.
“The president understands that campaigns are like a long sports season, and the work he’s doing now to raise money and change the debate is setting him up to compete and win in the fall,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. “He has a huge luxury not having a primary opponent, which allows him to be totally focused on the general election all year.”
Obama began his day Thursday at a morning fundraiser in Corona Del Mar, where he tried to re-energize his supporters.
“Some of the newness and excitement surrounding us in 2008 has naturally dissipated,” Obama told the crowd. “That sense of urgency and anticipation and the values that are at stake are no less than they were in 2008.”
Obama ticked off a list of his accomplishments at the fundraiser, which took place at a private residence.
“We’ve gone through three of the toughest years,” the president said. “And as we look back over the last three years we’re not yet where we need to be. ... But what we’ve been able to accomplish, in part because of you, has been remarkable.”
Even though California is a rock-solid blue state, not everyone was happy to see the president on his fundraising jaunt.
At the Corona Del Mar fundraiser, people lined the streets and held signs reading “Evict Obummer,” “Protect Religious Freedom” and “Gas prices up 91 percent under Obama.”
And the Republican National Committee (RNC) seized on Obama’s fundraising junket to point out that he’s not effectively doing his day job.
“The fact that Obama is spending the entire day campaigning is just another example of how Obama would rather campaign than govern our country,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a press secretary at the RNC.
“For a White House so consumed with campaign optics, it’s interesting Obama would campaign among the 99 percent one day and fill his campaign coffers among the 1 percent the next,” Kukowski said. “President Obama campaigned on hope and change, but three years later he’s just another typical politician who cares more about getting elected than governing. His own comments to the Hollywood elite saying Americans prefer campaigning over governing shows how out of touch this president is.”
The White House has maintained from the beginning that Obama has a “day job” that is his priority.
But campaign aides were labeling Obama’s sweep throughout California as a success, saying they had oversold each event, where guests paid more than $35,000 each.
On Wednesday evening, George Clooney, Jack Black and other A-listers attended the fundraisers.
After arriving in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon, Obama did break up his fundraisers with a surprise visit at a Chinese restaurant, where he ordered dim sum.
On Thursday, Obama attend a small fundraiser with approximately 20 supporters, where tickets cost $35,800.
Later in the evening, he attended a fundraising dinner with 70 supporters at a private residence in San Francisco — where soul legend Al Green performed, followed by a fundraising reception at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, where an estimated 2,500 people were in attendance.
All proceeds from Thursday’s events went to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.
But he went right back to fundraising after the lunchtime pit stop, seeking to make a convincing argument that he should be reelected.
“As I said in 2008, I’m not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president,” Obama said. “But I promised you then that I would always tell you what I thought, I would always tell you where I stood and I would wake up every single day fighting for you as hard as I know how. And I have kept that promise.”
This story was posted at 11:50 p.m. and was updated at 6:09 a.m.