LOS ANGELES (AP) — On a last dash for cash in the celebrity scene of California, President Barack Obama on Sunday took a good-natured shot as his own underwhelming debate performance, marveling at how his friends in the entertainment business could turn in flawless showings every time.
"I can't always say the same," Obama told thousands of supporters, who got the joke right away. It was Obama's most direct acknowledgment that his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, thoroughly won their debate Wednesday as a tight race rolled into its last month.
As Romney readied for a major foreign policy speech, Obama spoke at the start of two-day fundraising swing through California, his final one out West, and one that was expected to raise several million dollars for advertising efforts to the finish.
He appeared on stage after comments by actor George Clooney and performances by Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder and Jon Bon Jovi — and before a night-capping dinner where he told those who had paid $25,000 to see him that he intends to win. "I'm a big believer in closing the deal," Obama said in the dimly lit environs of Wolfgang Puck's WP24 restaurant.
The Republican presidential nominee, meanwhile, sought to build on the momentum from a debate performance last week that even Democrats conceded was "masterful." Campaigning in up-for-grabs Florida, Romney told a crowd of about 12,000 in Port St. Lucie that he had enjoyed himself, ticking off a list of Obama shortcomings he said he had exposed during the first debate.
"Now of course, days later, we're hearing his excuses," Romney said. "And next January we'll be watching him leave the White House for the last time."
As Romney finished speaking, someone in the crowd of supporters behind him held up a giant Israeli flag alongside smaller American flags, underscoring the amplified role that foreign affairs and the Middle East is playing as the presidential race draws to a close. Romney ended his day in Virginia, where on Monday he planned a major foreign policy address in which he will criticize Obama's handling of unrest in Libya and elsewhere.