"This is the most important election of my lifetime," President Obama says, and urges donors to keep writing checks...
UPDATE: CLICK HERE: Behind the scenes at 'Barack's Birthday' event
President Obama hopscotched between five fundraisers on Sunday in his hometown of Chicago, in a belated birthday celebration that raised at least $6.4 million from tickets. The events were scattered across the Windy City, with three taking place in the Hyde Park neighborhood where his family home is located. During the course of the day, as he spoke to a couple thousand supporters, the President made his first public comments about Rep. Paul Ryan, the newly announced running mate for Mitt Romney. The duo were a few hours away in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, speaking to more than 10,000 supporters at a rally in the Milwaukee suburbs. (Above: The President strolls through his neighborhood between fundraisers)
At the President's centerpiece event, the $40,000/ticket 'Barack's Birthday' party in the front yard of his three-story brick Georgian style home on Greenwood Avenue, the President, wearing a light shirt and dark slacks, stood against a backdrop of privacy pines as he told about 100 donors, who were not allowed inside the family home, that "this is the most important election of my lifetime." The window shades were drawn to prohibit snooping.
"I have to say that the lawn hasn’t looked this good in a while," the President said to laughter, adding that Chicago "is also the place that produced my wife."
First Lady Michelle Obama was previously scheduled to attend the event, but was instead in Beverly Hills, California, at a family-themed fundraiser at the home of pop star Gwen Stefani. She also attended a second fundraiser at the home of Warner Bros CEO Barry Meyer.
"It is wonderful to be back home. And it is wonderful to be among both old friends and new friends," President Obama told his party guests.
For the second time on Sunday, the President mentioned Romney and Ryan, telling the crowd "you have a stark choice" between competing principles--his, and those of the GOP, who focus on "top down economics," where the rich get richer and the middle class vanishes, he said.
The President made his first public comments about his opponents at an earlier fundraiser geared to Gen44 donors, where about 1,000 supporters paid $51 to see him at the Bridgeport Art Center during the second event of the day.
"Top-down economics is central to Governor Romney, and it is central to his running mate," Mr. Obama told the youngish crowd, before being interrupted by booing.
"No, no, no, no. Look, I want to congratulate Congressman Ryan," President Obama said. "I know him. I welcome him to the race...He's an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney's vision. But it's a vision that I fundamentally disagree with."
"They have tried to sell us this trickle-down fairy dust before, and guess what? It didn't work," President Obama said, citing the House Republican-passed budget Ryan authored.
The Ryan plan didn't cut the deficit, create jobs or revive the middle class, the President said, and noted GOP opposition to a slate of his proposals he said would help move the country forward, including his signature health care law and his plan to allow tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush to expire on incomes above $250,000.
At both events, he compared the re-election campaign to the Olympic games.
"This is not going to be a race like Usain Bolt where we’re like 40 yards ahead and we can just kind of start jogging 10 feet before the finish line," the President told the guests crowded into his yard.
"We’re going to have to run through the tape. But we’re really well positioned to not just win but to keep America moving forward.”
He ended with a joke he credited to Abner Mikva, that having a friend in politics is like having a child in college--there's always a big check involved.
“The good news is I’m about to graduate,” the President said. “Make sure I graduate and get another four years.”
The presidential yard party was the subject of a heavily promoted online fundraising contest, and the campaign announced the names of the two winners, Kalestine Butler, a pharmacist from Orlando, Florida and Sepp Sprietsma, a juvenile court officer from an unnamed town in Arizona, after the event. Each brought a guest.
Mr. Obama, carrying his suit jacket, strolled through his neighborhood after the birthday bash at his home, heading for two more fundraisers at the nearby homes of friends. The first, at the home of Marty Nesbitt and wife Anita Blanchard, was a closed-press photo-reception, with tickets starting at $5,000 per person. Nesbitt is the treasurer for Obama for America, and Blanchard, an obstetrician, is a close friend of the First Lady's, and delivered both the Obama daughters. There were approximately 200 guests, according to a campaign official.
More fairy dust...
The President's final stop of the day was at the home of Barbara Bowman, mother of Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. President Obama delivered remarks to about 400 people who paid $1,000 each.
A large crowd was packed onto the patio and in the backyard of Bowman's house, a block away from the President's own residence, under a large open sided marquee, pool reported. Music was pumping out of speakers, including Stevie Wonder's "Happy Birthday" and Paul Simon's "You Can Call me Al."
The President reminisced about when he used to knock on doors and people would be confused by his unusual sounding name: "Barama? Yo Bama?"... "It's Obama," he said.
Mr. Obama then launched into a passionate version of his stump speech, pool reported, defending his presidency and setting out the choice he sees before the American people. He once again mentioned Romney, and "his new running mate Paul Ryan," which got a few hisses from the crowd as he discussed the GOP economic plan.
"They have tried this top down tax fairy dust before. It did not work," he said.
There were loud cheers when the President finished his speech, which was watched from the side by Jarrett standing next to her newly married daughter Laura. The First Family attended the backyard wedding of Jarrett's daughter in June.
The President's day began with a $40,000/ticket roundtable for 25 supporters, and by 9:00 PM and he was walking back to his home with his Secret Service detail accompanying. He spent his second night in Chicago, in his own bed.
The President arrived in Chicago on Saturday afternoon, and spent close to three hours at his national campaign headquarters, before dining out with friends at Piccolo Sogno Due, an Italian restaurant in the River North Neighborhood. He marked his 51st birthday on August 4th.
On Monday, the President heads to Iowa, for a three-day bus tour of the state. He will be joined there on Wednesday by Mrs. Obama.
*The transcript of the President's remarks at the birthday event at his home.
*Pool photo by AP