(NEW YORK) — President Obama and the first lady concluded their night of campaign fundraisers in New York on Thursday at the Plaza Hotel with a $10,000-a-plate gala that featured performances by Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey.
Michelle Obama spoke first on stage in the elegantly-appointed ballroom before a blue curtain backdrop and a row of American flags. Approximately 250 guests sat around a mix of square and round tables with linen table cloths, vases of white flowers and crystal bowls with floating candles.
Mrs. Obama, who has recently stepped up her appearances on the campaign trail, gave a sobering assessment of the presidential race against Mitt Romney, which she said was “just the beginning.”
“It’s going to require us to work like we never worked before,” she told the crowd. “I know each of you has somebody in your lives today who doesn’t know what’s at stake. Those are the kind of uncomfortable conversations that we need to have… You have to multiply yourselves. For everyone here, you have to find 10, 20, 30, 50 people to be responsible for shaking them up and getting them engaged, convincing them of what’s at stake”
“I’m going to be out there. I’m going to be out there as much as possible, with as much passion and as much conviction as this little body can muster up. Because I completely believe in the man whom I’m about to introduce,” she said.
President Obama picked up where his wife left off, telling the crowd that he’s as determined as ever to fight to keep his job, while offering a sobering assessment of the challenges he faces.
Rehashing his message from Cleveland earlier that day, Obama said the economy is the “crux of this campaign” and the differences of vision between him and Romney could not be more stark.
The president said of Republicans that the “essence of their prescription” for economic growth is to cut taxes and cut government. “Their analysis is that government is the problem and that if we just prune it back to a few basics like national security… we’ll grow faster,” he said.
“I don’t question their sincerity, but I do question their conception of how we grow America,” Obama said, later adding, “I understand the argument the other side’s making. The problem is we tried it just a few years ago. And it was exactly that theory that led to sluggish economic growth…”
Before taking questions from the audience, Obama started to discuss the impending TV ad wars, but caught himself and qualified his remarks.
“Over the next five months, you won’t be seeing a lot of ads because frankly Manhattan’s not a battleground state,” he said drawing laughter and applause. “But out in those battleground states they will be seeing not just millions of dollars, but potentially over a billion of negative ads and the message will be very simple — the economy isn’t where it needs to be and it is Obama’s fault”
Obama said it will be a close election but he believes he will win because “we are right.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN