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Obama campaign embraces his lucrative Hollywood image

Jared Leto’s Obamfund-raiser is backed by committee including Johnny Galecki MariBello Pete Wentz Connie Britton.

Jared Leto’s Obama fund-raiser is backed by a committee including Johnny Galecki, Maria Bello, Pete Wentz and Connie Britton.

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Updated: July 23, 2012 8:00AM

P resident Barack Obama’s campaign has taken frequent shots from Republicans for those jaunts to Los Angeles to raise oodles of cash from what GOP leaders have called the “limousine liberal Hollywood elitist crowd.”

Dem fund-raisers don’t seem to care and now are focusing on some high-profile younger Hollywood stars.

Next up: a June 29 “Gen 44” fund-raising bash for under-40 Obama supporters in L.A., chaired by Jared Leto — backed by a committee that includes Connie Britton, Johnny Galecki, Pete Wentz, Zach Braff, Maria Bello, Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher.

MORNING SHIFT: Commenting on the expected departure of Ann Curry as “Today” co-host, a veteran NBC insider said Thursday, “This isn’t personal, it’s business,” explaining it was NBC’s own private research that supported the morning show’s honchos’ “gut feelings about Ann: She was the weak link in ‘Today’s’ on-air talent.”

Recent challenges to the No. 1 morning show by ABC’s “Good Morning America” (which snared top ratings for several weeks this spring) convinced “Today” executives that Curry must go.

She never secured the audience affection enjoyed by Meredith Vieira or Katie Couric, and Curry’s on-camera persona “strikes too many people as too sweet, often gushy and touchy-feely” during interviews, added the source. While co-host Matt Lauer personally is fond of Curry, sources indicated he told his NBC bosses he wanted a new partner when he inked his recent long-term renewal of his “Today” deal. “They just never quite clicked on-air,” said one NBC veteran.

“Many people around here — most who love Ann dearly — agree that she represents the latest example of the ‘Peter Principle,’ ” added the source, referring to her being solid in her previous role as “Today” newsreader but not strong enough to tackle the anchor desk responsibilities.

My primary source also said the change would now come fairly quickly as the long-whispered buzz about Curry “has become red-hot, thanks to the New York Times story” Thursday, outlining her expected departure.

“Right now many people think [third-hour anchor] Savannah Guthrie will get the job, but I wouldn’t count out [‘Today’ newsreader] Natalie Morales,” said the source. “Natalie has a lot of friends in high places around here.”

† Curry may be already out of her “Today” anchor chair by the time the August issue of Ladies Home Journal hits newsstands July 10. In the cover story, Curry says, “I’ve been at ‘Today’ for 15 years and I’d love to make it to 20.”

LEGAL EAGLE: Top Chicago attorney Karen Conti has a lot on her plate. Along with her busy practice, Conti now has a regular segment on ex-Chicagoan Don Lemon’s CNN show on Saturday evenings, and she’s a regular contributor for Nancy Grace on HLN.

† On Saturday, Conti will conduct a Q&A after “The Gacy Play” at the Sideshow Theatre Company’s production at the Wit Theater — talking about her representation of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

PLAY BALL: After throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field Sunday night, Dick Allen — joined by Rich “Goose” Gossage, Roland Hemond and Jay Johnstone — will head to 94 West Steak & Seafood in Orland Park for an autographing session to help raise funds for the proposed Chicago Baseball Museum.

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