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Economy, concern over Israel made Obama's Philadelphia fundraisers a tougher sell

July 07, 2011|By Peter Nicholas
(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )

The fundraising events for President Obama in Philadelphia last week were expected to reel in about $2.5 million, a sum the president's Republican opponents would envy. But getting people to donate was no easy sell.

Alan Kessler, who has been raising money for national Democratic candidates since the late 1980s, said the pair of events in Philadelphia on June 30 amounted to "a great success."

Kessler, who helped organize the events, added: "Having said that, I will tell you it was maybe one of the toughest events I've ever worked."

A combination of the poor economy, summer doldrums and Obama's controversial remarks about the Israeli peace process made it tough to wring commitments from Philadelphia area donors, Kessler said.

Obama's support among Jewish voters remains strong, according to a recent Gallup survey. Still, many Jewish voters are upset about Obama's assertion in May that a Middle East peace agreement should be based on the boundary lines in place before the 1967 war, coupled with mutually-agreed land swaps.

The kerfuffle has complicated Obama's fundraising efforts in the Jewish community.

"I can tell you that I had more people decline than I've ever had – and most of that decline was because of uncertainty about where the president is with Israel," Kessler said.

During a private question-and-answer session at a dinner that night hosted by Comcast executive David L. Cohen, Obama spoke about Israel and also fielded a question about the perceived lack of enthusiasm surrounding his reelection bid versus the high-spirited campaign he waged in 2008.

Obama said the election is still a long way off, so there isn't a comparable sense of urgency at the moment. He also mentioned that, for now, he has no single Republican opponent. So, as of this point, "it's me running against myself," Kessler recalled.

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