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Sunday, October 7, 2012

On Fund-Raising Tour, Obama Admits Poor Debate Showing


LOS ANGELES â€" President Obama joined the chorus of critics who have been slamming his debate performance, acknowledging on Sunday night before a star-studded fund-raiser that he may have flubbed the face-to-face standoff with Mitt Romney last week.

Appearing at the Nokia Theater after a concert where Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Jennifer Hudson, Katy Perry and Jon Bon Jovi performed, Mr. Obama complimented the entertainers for their flawless presentations. Then, he added, “I can't always say the same.”

The joke at his own expense comes as Mr. Obama and his campaign continue to try to recover from the debate. The president, seeking to add to his already strong fund-raising totals last mo nth, exhorted wealthy and staunchly Democratic donors to continue their support, painting a picture of an economy in the United States that is making a comeback.

“On Friday we found out the unemployment rate has fallen from the height of 10 percent to 7.8 percent, the lowest since I took office,” Mr. Obama said, to cheers. “Manufacturing is coming back.”

Mr. Obama is on a two-day fund-raising swing in California, a state he has visited only recently to raise money for Democratic coffers. At a posh party at the home of the Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, Mr. Obama, joined by former President Bill Clinton, mingled with a small group of wealthy donors, ostensibly to thank them, campaign aides said, for all the money they've given this election cycle.

Then it was on to the Nokia Theater. From there, the president headed to a $25,000 per person party for 150 supporters held at Wolfgang Puck's WP24 in the Ritz Carlto n. On Monday, Mr. Obama will do the same, this time in San Francisco.

Still stinging from the president's lackluster showing in the debate, the Obama campaign is beginning this week with a full frontal assault on Mr. Romney, who is due to deliver a foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute on Monday.

Aboard Air Force One en route to California, a campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, ridiculed Mr. Romney's foreign policy experience. “We are not going to be lectured by someone who's been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he sticks his toe in the foreign policy waters,” Ms. Psaki said, referring to Mr. Romney's European trip this summer, which received poor reviews both at home and abroad.

But the Obama campaign is clearly nervous about the next presidential debate, which is scheduled for next week in Long Island. Mr. Obama will hole up in Williamsburg, Va., this weekend for debate preparation, aides said, and Ms. Psaki e ven joked that a childhood friend of the president's from Punahou School in Hawaii, Mike Ramos, who was along for the ride on Air Force One on Sunday, was actually on the plane to act as Mr. Obama's new debate coach.