Celebs Help Raise $9M For Obama: Leo, Spielberg, Will Ferrell, Jodie Foster And Others

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Barack Obama sought to put a personal stamp on his economic policies in troubled times, appearing Wednesday in a two-minute television commercial to outline his plans and caution it won't be easy to fix the nation's worsening financial problems.

The new ad was filmed in Denver on Tuesday and was to be broadcast nationally in the wake of one of the worst days on Wall Street, as the stock market, reeling from the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the takeover of Merrill Lynch, fell 500 points. The turmoil continued Tuesday when the Federal Reserve forged an extraordinary $85 billion rescue of insurance giant American International Group Inc.

The ad and a hardening of Obama's rhetoric reflected a turning point in the campaign to zero in on the economy as the No. 1 issue for voters.

Obama's point was that Americans didn't have to read newspapers or watch television reports to know that the economy is struggling.

Obama said: "600,000 Americans have lost their jobs since January. Paychecks are flat and home values are falling. It's hard to pay for gas and groceries and if you put it on a credit card they've probably raised your rates.

"You're paying more than ever for health insurance that covers less and less," he said. "This isn't just a string of bad luck. The truth is that while you've been living up to your responsibilities, Washington has not. That's why we need change. Real change."

Taped in a living-room like setting, Obama spoke directly to the camera and did not mention Republican rival John McCain.

The Obama campaign also released an ad highlighting the closure of Corning Inc.'s plant in State College, Pa., and accusing McCain of selling out its workers.

The ad, which is set to air in Pennsylvania and 13 other states, features photos of blue-collar workers and claims that in 2004 the company hired back many of its workers to dismantle the equipment for shipment to China. McCain, it says, supported breaks to companies that moved jobs overseas and voted against a crackdown on unfair trade practices.

"Washington sold them out with the help of people like John McCain," the ad says.

Wall Street's turbulence and the shakiness of the U.S. financial system brought the economy to the fore after weeks of campaign distractions and fascination with McCain's surprise pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

"Certainly the events of this week have blasted the campaigns back to the central issue," said David Axelrod, chief strategist for Obama.

Obama, in his two-minute commercial, said, "Much of this campaign has been consumed by petty attacks and distractions that have nothing to do with you or how we get America back on track."

He made the same point at a pair of Hollywood fundraisers Tuesday night, where he raised about $9 million for his campaign and the Democratic Party.

"If we can cut through the nonsense and the lipstick and the pigs and the silliness, then I'm absolutely convinced that we're going to win," Obama said, speaking over laughter and applause. He said the economic turmoil of recent days had "reminded people that this is not a game. This is not a reality show, no offense to any of you. This is not a sitcom."

Actors Will Farrell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jodie Foster were spotted in the audience; waiters said that DreamWorks founders Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg also were in the crowd of 250-300 people who paid $28,500 each.

Later, Obama appeared at a $250-a-person fundraiser with singer-actress Barbra Streisand. She ran through bits of songs, but did not sing entire numbers, for about 15 minutes. That crowd included Ron Howard, Sarah Silverman, Magic Johnson and Pierce Brosnan.

"I'm not in a celebratory mood," Obama said in remarks that seemed to surprise the upbeat audience. "We are at a defining moment in our history." With the economy stumbling and the U.S. engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama said, "We feel that somehow we've gotten badly off track."

In his new commercial, Obama recited his now-familiar proposals for tax cuts for middle-class Americans, tougher regulation of the financial industry, an initiative to end America's dependence on Mideast oil within 10 years and other steps, including "a responsible end to this war in Iraq so we stop spending billions each month rebuilding their country when we should be rebuilding ours."

"Doing these things won't be easy," he said, adding that "bitter partisan fights and outworn ideas of the left and the right won't solve the problems we face today."

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Associated Press writer Kimberly Hefling in Washington contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS the number of states where blue-collar ad will air to 14, not 13.)