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Obama banking on NYC for 2012 re-election

President Barack Obama at the National Action Network

President Barack Obama at the National Action Network gala Photo Credit: Getty

President Barack Obama wants a staggering $1 billion war chest for his re-election campaign, and where better to hobnob than one of the wealthiest locales in the country: Manhattan.

Obama was back in the city Wednesday for the second time in nine days to speak at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network gala in midtown. But New Yorkers may end up seeing more of the fundraiser-in-chief – at least for now – as the city serves as a critical cash cow for the campaign, observers say.

“His campaign is hoping to start with significant fundraising from major donors, and among the most significant ZIP codes for presidential campaigns have been in Manhattan,” said Michael Malbin, political science professor at SUNY Albany.

Obama’s visit to Harlem last Tuesday included a $30,800-per-plate fundraiser that reportedly pulled in about $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee.

But while New York is a key place for the president’s campaign to network, it’s not expected to be a battleground state in 2012.

Attending Wednesday’s community event allows Obama to reconnect with his base, said political analyst Basil Smikle, “but I wouldn’t imagine that he’ll make (New York) a frequent campaign stop, unless there’s fundraising involved. New York is a reliable blue state.”

The president will need to burnish his reputation amid sagging poll numbers – the latest Zogby poll found that only 38 percent of voters want him re-elected.

Meanwhile, the small donor fundraising that was the hallmark of Obama’s 2008 campaign will be a necessity once Republicans have a nominee to rally around, observers say.

But political analyst Keli Goff said Obama would be remiss to avoid campaigning in New York altogether.

“It will all depend on what’s going on in New York. Symbolism can be very important in elections,” said Goff, a blogger for TheLoop21.com.

However, Peter Flaherty, president of the right-leaning National Legal and Policy Center, said Obama's visit with Sharpton could backfire among independent voters who have a poor opinion of the reverend because he “divides people.”

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