Romney, Obama shift focus to fundraising, at least for a day

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For a day, the

presidential contest was almost all about money — money to wage the

presidential contest,

that is. Mitt Romney promised to help Americans earn more, but he

and President Barack Obama focused mostly on private fundraisers

and big checks to fuel their 40-day sprint to Election Day.

Obama courted donors in Washington on Friday, while his Republican challenger did the same in Philadelphia and Boston, both

men trading swing-state rallies for fundraising in places unlikely to play a significant role in the election of the next

president on Nov. 6.

Romney admitted as much during a fundraiser

at Philadelphia's exclusive Union League Club. The former Massachusetts

governor

said it would surprise everyone if he carried Pennsylvania, a

state that hasn't supported a Republican presidential candidate

in nearly a quarter century.

"We really would shock people if early in the evening of Nov. 6 it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way and

actually did come our way. That can happen," Romney told about 200 donors who paid between $2,500 and $50,000 to hear his

remarks.

"My priority is job creation and growing incomes," Romney continued. "My priority is not trying to punish people who have

been successful."

The former businessman's remarks came at the first of three private fundraisers sandwiched around a midday rally. Obama kept

close to Washington with a schedule of three fundraisers of his own.

As the candidates asked for cash, their

campaigns prepared for next week's high-stakes meeting on the debate

stage — the first

of three presidential debates and perhaps Romney's best chance to

reverse the recent Obama gains suggested by opinion polls.

Both men worked international affairs into

their politicking Friday with separate telephone calls to Israeli Prime

Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu. Romney criticized Obama for not meeting with

Netanyahu this week during his visit to the United Nations,

where the prime minister declared the world has only until next

summer to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Aides to

both candidates did not mention that dire declaration in their

reports of the calls.

But money was largely the focus of the day.

In an election where the two sides already

have collected more than $1 billion, each campaign has committed

millions more

they haven't yet raised to help blanket key states with television

ads, drive national voter turnout operations and support

massive teams of paid staff and consultants. Private events at

places like the Union League Club, where dress codes prohibit

wrinkled clothes and huge crystal chandeliers hang from ceilings,

are regular occurrences for campaigns seeking the modern-day

lifeblood of presidential politics.

Romney and the Republican Party had raised

about $536 million through the end of August, the most recent reporting

data available.

Obama and the Democratic Party had collected about $655 million

through the same period.

Both camps have been spending furiously,

mostly on expensive television advertising in battleground states. That

doesn't count

the hundreds of millions of dollars likely to be spent by "super"

political committees, which can raise and spend unlimited

sums. Republican-leaning super PACs and Romney's campaign have

outspent efforts for Obama's re-election since mid-July, ad

data show.

Fundraising can present image risks for both sides.

During the 2008 campaign, Republican John

McCain's campaign aired advertising calling Obama the "biggest celebrity

in the

world," showing his image along with Britney Spears and Paris

Hilton. Obama's brushes with fame and fortune have only grown

in the years since.

The president's fundraising trips often

combine big money with the mansions and chic brownstones of the nation's

elite. Red-carpet

stars like George Clooney, Spike Lee, Sarah Jessica Parker and

Tyler Perry have all had Obama over for big-dollar dinners.

At one fundraiser in Seattle's suburbs last spring, Microsoft

founder Bill Gates stood beside a grand piano as Obama spoke

at the home of Jeff Brotman, the co-founder of Costco.

And Obama's campaign could have easily

staged its own version of the music world's Lollapalooza during his

re-election bid:

Fundraisers have been headlined by such acts as the Foo Fighters,

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

The campaign is planning a "30 Days to Victory" concert on Oct. 7

in Los Angeles featuring Jon Bon Jovi, Earth Wind & Fire,

Jennifer Hudson, Katy Perry and Stevie Wonder.

The event will try to eclipse a recent fundraiser with Jay-Z and Beyonce that raised about $4 million in New York.

On Friday, the president was to deliver remarks at a finance event at the Capital Hilton in Washington, with tickets starting

at $250 and going as high as $10,000 per couple. He then was attending a smaller fundraiser at a private residence before

returning to the hotel for a third event.

Obama also met with advisers Friday at

Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington to prepare for

the debates

before heading Sunday to Nevada to hold practice sessions. His

campaign released a political memo on Friday saying it expects

Romney "to be a prepared, disciplined and aggressive debater."

Romney, too, planned to spend much of his weekend in debate preparation, a task he began three months ago.

But he spent more time fundraising on Friday than anything else. And like Obama, Romney faces fundraising-related risks.

As polls suggest his campaign is moving in

the wrong direction, Romney is facing calls from within his party to

spend less

time with donors and more time with voters. Less than a week ago,

he promised to do just that and spent three days this week

campaigning across Ohio and Virginia. But he was back to

fundraising Thursday night at a single Washington event that generated

$5 million.

There, Romney was introduced by Bill Marriott, the chairman of Marriott International.

"He rescued me just as he's going to rescue this great country," Marriott proclaimed after sharing a story about boating on

the same New Hampshire lake where both men own vacation homes.

The campaign would not say how much Romney raised at the Philadelphia event, but he was expected to generate at least $7 million

at two Boston fundraisers Friday evening. The two-day total was expected to exceed $13 million.