President Obama greets supporters after speaking in Cincinnati on Sept.… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais,…)
Reporting from Washington — President Obama arrives in California on Sunday for a critical fundraising swing as his reelection campaign scrambles to make up ground it lost this summer, when it was forced to cancel 10 donor events during the debt ceiling fight.
The trip comes after campaign manager Jim Messina told top donors that the campaign was aiming to raise $55 million this quarter — a substantial sum, but about $15 million shy of what it could have pulled in had Obama been able to attend all of the originally scheduled events, campaign fundraisers said.
"The first part of the quarter was slow," said one member of Obama's national finance committee, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about campaign strategy. "We hope to be able to make up for what we were not able to do."
The goal in California: to scoop up $7 million through a series of low- and high-priced fundraisers in the Silicon Valley, West Hollywood, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The president is scheduled to attend a $2,500-a-head reception Sunday at the Silicon Valley home of Symantec Corp. Chairman John Thompson, followed by a small dinner at the home of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg. Tickets for the latter run $35,800 a person, the maximum an individual can contribute under federal law.
On Monday, Obama will head to San Diego for a luncheon at the La Jolla home of philanthropists Mason and Elizabeth Phelps. Tickets start at $5,000.
Then he is slated to hit the House of Blues in West Hollywood for a late-afternoon event featuring pop star B.o.B. and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a star of ABC's hit sitcom "Modern Family" — with tickets running between $250 and $10,000 for access to a VIP reception and photo line. That evening, donors have been invited to cocktails and dinner with the president at the Hollywood restaurant Fig & Olive, at a cost of $17,900 a person.
Before arriving in California, Obama is set to attend two events in Seattle — a small dinner for donors giving the $35,800 maximum and a larger event at the Paramount Theater, where tickets start at $100.
Despite what has been a rocky few months for the administration, campaign fundraisers said their challenge had not been donor disenchantment, but simply squeezing more events into Obama's schedule.
"The smaller high-dollar events with the president are still selling out — attendance and demand has still been very, very good," said the national finance committee member. "We still expect to have a very strong quarter."
The campaign has sent multiple emails to the president's supporters in recent days, including one last week that urged donors to give before the "serious deadline" of the quarter's close Sept. 30.
"It's the official FEC filing deadline, and it's not arbitrary — it's built into our campaign's budget plan," deputy campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon wrote of the Federal Election Commission timeline. "It will determine what kinds of resources we can commit to which states as we expand our ground game.
Seeking to ensure a robust finish, the campaign is capping the quarter with back-to-back fundraising swings through New York and California, which have long provided the financial backbone for Democratic presidential campaigns. Last quarter, the two states brought in more than $25 million to the campaign, according to analysis by the Los Angeles Times.
A segment of the donor community had been frustrated by some of the administration's recent actions, including the decision to hold off on issuing new ozone regulations. But the mood of bundlers who assembled in Chicago earlier this month for a national finance committee meeting shifted dramatically the first night, when they gathered at campaign headquarters to watch the president deliver a feisty speech about his jobs plan, according to people in attendance.
"It was very uplifting to the group and I think energized everyone," said the national finance committee member.
In California, fundraisers predict an enthusiastic welcome for the president, but donors will also use the occasion to nudge Obama on policy.
"We'll let him know that we don't like he's put off until 2013 to address the ozone issue, but we also have to let him know that we support him," actress Donna Mills said of her fellow environmental activists.
"And we do still have to support him because we can't afford to let any part of his constituency erode," she added. "It's too important."
Times staff writers Maloy Moore and Sandra Poindexter in Los Angeles contributed to this report.