Obama raising Hollywood cash on heels of gay marriage endorsement

President Obama and his aides claim they're just not sure how his endorsement of same-sex marriage will play politically.

But his campaign is pushing awfully hard to make sure it plays well.

The campaign, within hours of Obama's interview in which he declared for the first time his support for gay marriage, blasted out a fundraising email to supporters. At dawn on Thursday, the campaign released a web video highlighting the president's new-found stance and lambasting likely GOP opponent Mitt Romney's opposition to gay marriage.

Now the president is preparing to head to a sold-out fundraiser Thursday evening at George Clooney's home in Los Angeles -- where he is sure to be embraced by well-heeled celebrity donors.

Hollywood is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage and the 150 donors who are paying $40,000 to attend Clooney's dinner Thursday night will no doubt feel newly invigorated by Obama's watershed announcement the day before.

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Overall, the dinner is expected to raise close to $15 million -- about $6 million from the guests and the rest from a campaign contest for small-dollar donors, the winners of which get to participate in the dinner. It is an unprecedented amount for a single event. And it means that in one single evening the Obama camp and the Democratic Party will collect more than Romney has amassed in his best single month of fundraising.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday rejected any suggestion that the president was looking to use his announcement to raise campaign funds.

"I really dismiss the idea that this had anything to do with money, I really do," she said.

Obama, in newly aired excerpts of his ABC News interview on gay marriage, said he'd already "made a decision that we were going to probably take this position before the election and before the convention."

As to why Obama decided to make the announcement Wednesday, he suggested Vice President Biden's comments over the weekend in support of gay marriage nudged him.

"He probably got out a little bit over his skis," Obama said.

He added: "Would I have preferred to have done this in my own way, in my own terms without, I think, there being a lot of notice to everybody? Sure, but all's well that ends well."

Obama's campaign was not shy about drawing attention to the announcement.

By Wednesday evening, he had sent out a campaign email saying: "Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry."

The email included a link for supporters to donate to the campaign.

His campaign on Thursday morning released a web video titled: "Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality."

The video launched with a clip of Obama's ABC News interview, followed by a clip of Romney saying he opposes gay marriage and civil unions if they are "identical" to gay marriage in all but name.

The video went on to list the rights that Romney would allegedly "deny," claiming at the end that Obama is "moving us forward" while Romney "would take us back."

Republicans, meanwhile, have accused the president of playing politics with his announcement.
Romney, asked about the issue Wednesday, said he has "the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor and that I expressed many times. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman."

Before heading to Hollywood, Obama will also hold fundraisers earlier in the day Thursday in Seattle, where he was expected to collect at least $3 million toward his re-election effort. On Friday, he will fly to Nevada, a highly contested state, where he will call for housing relief in a speech in Reno.

But Obama's support of gay marriage will be dominant, culminating in yet another fundraiser Monday in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters.

Even though Obama doesn't have the power to make same-sex marriage legal, his announcement was the first by a sitting president.

As much as his announcement may energize his core backers, however, gay marriage remains enough of a divisive issue that there could be political risks. If opposition to gay marriage drives even a sliver of the voting population, it could make a difference in close swing states. Moreover, it could boost fundraising for social conservative groups that are mounting their own campaigns against Obama and galvanize conservatives still uncertain about Romney's commitment to their causes.

"Twenty-four hours ago, we were talking about what Romney had to do to get social conservatives on board," said Ralph Reed, chairman of the conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition. "Now, they're scrambling for a seat in first class."

Clooney's dinner Thursday evening was organized by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, and will include such celebrity guests as Robert Downey Jr. and Barbra Streisand. The event was initially to be a spring gala hosted by Katzenberg at his house.

But Katzenberg's home is under renovation, so Clooney offered to host instead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.