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Obama, Biden cancel string of fund-raisers to focus on debt talks

President Barack Obamis greeted by Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel as he takes stage speak fundriser Navy Pier Chicago April 14

President Barack Obama is greeted by Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel as he takes the stage to speak at a fundriser at Navy Pier in Chicago on April 14, 2011. l Keith Hale l Sun-Times

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Updated: October 29, 2011 12:36AM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have canceled a string of re-election fund-raising appearances these past weeks — which would have reaped millions of dollars — to stay in Washington for negotiations to raise the debt limit as an Aug. 2 default deadline looms.

The Obama campaign confirmed Obama scratched a planned West Coast swing in northern and southern California and Seattle. Last Tuesday night, Obama postponed an event at the Manhattan home of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Biden has pulled the plug on fund-raisers in Atlanta, Nashville and Dallas.

“The president is doing the job the American people elected him to do and that is what will always come first,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told me in an e-mail. “Our job is to build the campaign while the president governs.”

Tonight, Obama had been scheduled to attend two fund-raising events in Washington, and the events were on his schedule released on Friday. Because of the down-to-the-wire negotiations, one of them — in a private residence — has been called off. Biden will substitute for Obama for the other event, at the St. Regis hotel, a few blocks from the White House.

While organizers are working on an Aug. 3 fund-raiser at the Aragon in Chicago — tied to Obama’s 50th birthday on Aug. 4 — if the default deadline is missed, the event will not take place.

Obama and Biden have stuck close to Washington to preside over what by now has been an almost daily series of meetings over the debt, deficit and budget.

Earlier this month, the Obama team reported its first 2012 fund-raising results, collecting in April, May and June more than $47 million directly for the Obama for America 2012 campaign and more than $38 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Some $40 million of that, I’m told by a source, came from the more than 244 Obama bundlers who have raised at least $50,000. Bundlers are people who tap their personal networks to raise major money and for the Obama team, their best sales tools to draw in other contributors are events with Obama, Biden and first lady Michelle.

Since the 2012 campaign kickoff in April, Obama has headlined 31 fund-raisers; Mrs. Obama nine and Biden 5.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama makes a day trip to Park City, Utah, and Aspen, Colo., for two high-end fund-raisers with a sliding price tag, from $1,000 to $35,800. Both events are hosted by Obama bundlers: Mark and Nancy Gilbert in Park City and in Aspen, some 200 people are expected at the home of Chicagoans Jim and Paula Crown. Jim Crown was Obama’s 2008 Illinois co-finance chairman.

The Obama team has been ramping up its use of surrogates to help raise money; last Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in New York to kick off a $5,000-per-person “speakers series.” Surrogates are also lined up for Aug. 3 Obama birthday fund-raisers in fertile fund-raising turf in Boston, Washington, Tampa, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin and Oakland.

The Aug. 3 surrogates include David Axelrod, Obama’s top strategist; former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, Deputy Campaign Manager Jen O’Malley Dillon; White House senior adviser David Plouffe; Obama campaign Deputy National Field Director Marlon Marshall and Democratic National Committee Executive Director Patrick Gaspard.

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