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Celebrity hoops with Obama, Michael Jordan and the gang

August 07, 2012|By James Rainey
  • A screen shot of what it takes for a chance to join President Obama and Michael Jordan for the "Obama Classic."
A screen shot of what it takes for a chance to join President Obama and Michael… (Obama for America / Los Angeles…)

“I can’t believe I’m typing this.” So teased the subject line of the latest in a string of email blasts from BarackObama.com clawing to even the fundraising battle with Mitt Romney. The latest pitch: a $3 (minimum) campaign donation gets the winner and a guest a trip to “meet the President — and shoot hoops with some of the best basketball players alive.”

Those who take the bait click through to an Obama webpage that touts the “Obama Classic” as a chance to run some hoops — or play H-O-R-S-E — with Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Sheryl Swoopes, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and players to be named later.

The fine print promises to deliver two winners and their guests to “an event with President Obama on a date, at a venue and for a duration to be determined by Sponsor (approximate retail value of all prizes $3,200).” The pitch declares the “odds of winning depend on number of entries received and timing of entries received.”

This is what happens when Romney and the Republicans have been beating you for three straight months on the fundraising pitch, most recently with a $101.3-million take, compared with President Obama’s $75 million. With almost $186 million on hand at the end of July, the Romney campaign, GOP and related committees are poised to advertise beyond comprehension in the fall; not that Team Obama is exactly bereft, with a war chest last reported at $147 million.

Actually, Obama’s campaign had been raffling access to the president and celebrities even before Romney’s big funding gains. With its declining support from Wall Street, Obama’s team has leaned harder and harder on celebrity cool.

Previous $3-and-way-up email raffles have pitched “Dinner with Barack,” entree to a high-roller fundraiser at George Clooney’s Hollywood home and a “New York Night,” described by hostess Sarah Jessica Parker as a “fabulous” evening at her Manhattan Home, with Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and fashion czarina Anna Wintour.

Republicans will resurrect their long-standing trope against Democratic hobnobbing with out-of-touch elites. Rush Limbaugh likes to call Obama “Barack Kardashian,” and the Republican National Committee may take after the White House — as it did with a lampoon of the New York fundraiser cross-cutting shots of the Obama’s elite fashion pals with daunting jobless numbers.

The Obama team must be cognizant of the blowback it knows will come. But it clearly doesn’t cause much pause, when compared with the potentially huge paydays for the president’s reelection. The Clooney event alone brought in $15 million.

In case anyone missed the headliner in the “dream moment” with pro basketball stars, the online pitch reiterated: “Wait, did, you catch that? MICHAEL JORDAN.” Concludes the “Obama Classic” plea: “Step up and take your shot at making the team with President Obama and some of basketball's greatest legends.”

Romney’s camp presumably could counter with its own celebrity get-togethers: brick-smashing with martial arts icon Chuck Norris, carousing with Kid Rock or perhaps a bow-hunting and anger-management session with Ted Nugent. But so far the Republicans have raffled only a dinner with Donald Trump. The subject line for that one also should have read, “I can’t believe I’m typing this.”

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james.rainey@latimes.com

Twitter: latimesrainey

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