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President Barack Obama pitched for blue-collar jobs and then dashed for campaign cash on Wednesday, embarking on a three-day West Coast trip to haul in millions of dollars for his re-election bid.
Obama's day brought him from the factory floor of a Milwaukee padlock manufacturer to the posh home of a Hollywood soap opera producer, where 1,000 people paid hundreds of dollars apiece to support Obama and listen to the rock band the Foo Fighters. The messages throughout the day -- from policies to spur job growth to the need to mobilize for a tough campaign ahead -- are intertwined as Obama seeks re-election.
"It's not going to be easier this time. It's going to be harder this time," Obama said Wednesday night at the home of Bradley Bell, the executive producer of "The Bold and the Beautiful," at an event attended by notables that included actors Jack Black and Rashida Jones. "People out there are hurting and they need us to do more."
The president later attended a swanky dinner at Bell's Holmby Hills home that included actors George Clooney, James Belushi and other guests paying $35,800 each. Will Ferrell was a co-host of the event but was filming in New Orleans and did not attend.
The president recalled a common refrain from former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who said, "campaigning is poetry and governance is prose."
"We've been slogging through prose for the last three years," Obama said, noting that "people, they like the poetry." He acknowledged that some of his supporters remain frustrated that the war in Afghanistan has yet to end and the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, remains open.
"I understand that. I feel the same way sometimes," he said.
Obama was spending the night at the Beverly Hilton, the same hotel where singer Whitney Houston died on Saturday.
California traditionally has been a fundraising mecca for Democrats -- and a reliably blue state -- and Obama's campaign was expected to collect millions from six events in Los Angeles and San Francisco over two days. He was wrapping up the week with two fundraisers in the Seattle area.
The president raised more than $220 million for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2011 and is trying to use a protracted Republican presidential primary to build a financial buffer zone to help his cause in the November general election. Democrats have warned that outside groups supporting Republicans will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign to target Obama.
Obama was making his first fundraising trip outside Washington since his campaign announced it would encourage supporters to donate to a Democratic super PAC backing Obama's campaign. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their wives do not plan to appear at events for the super PAC, Priorities USA.
It was also Obama's first trip to Hollywood since Congress delayed action on legislation cracking down on online piracy. The legislation was pushed by the film industry and garnered major opposition from Internet companies before it stalled, pitting two Democratic constituencies against each other.
Obama has said any legislation must protect intellectual property that creates jobs in the U.S., while still respecting the integrity of the Internet as an open system. The president made no mention of the issue during remarks to the large audience of activists.
Obama started his day in Milwaukee, where he called for tax cuts for American manufacturers and higher taxes for companies that move overseas, pressing what he hopes will be a winning campaign issue. He also acknowledged that many factories have closed, their jobs have gone overseas and a lot of them "are not going to come back."
"In a global economy, some companies will always find it more profitable to pick up and do business in other part of the world. That's just a fact," Obama said at the Master Lock plant in Milwaukee. "But that doesn't mean we have to sit by and settle for a lesser future."
Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008 but has watched his popularity fall amid tough economic conditions. Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, captured nearly every statewide office two years ago and GOP leaders expect to target Obama throughout the Midwest this year.
Walker infuriated Democrats with efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights and faces a recall election later in the spring or summer that could serve as a bellwether for Obama in the state. Walker has said a win would deliver a "devastating blow" to Obama's re-election campaign.
Yet he was all smiles he greeted the president at the airport, a Milwaukee Brewers jersey in hand as a gift.
The president hit the road with good political news trailing him. Congress had reached a tentative agreement to extend a payroll tax cut that would mean an extra $40 per paycheck for a typical family, along with an extension of unemployment benefits. The payroll tax break was as the heart of Obama's jobs plan.
He suggested that a range of changes in the tax code could keep the momentum going. Obama has sought a reduction in tax rates for manufacturers and proposed tax credits that would cover moving expenses for companies that close production overseas and bring jobs back to the U.S.
He noted that Master Lock has returned about 100 jobs to the United States from China since mid-2010 in response to higher labor and logistical costs in Asia. "Manufacturing is coming back," Obama said. "The economy is getting stronger."
Obama plans to take the manufacturing message to Washington state on Friday, touring a Boeing facility at the end of a brisk West Coast trip.
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