US President Barack Obama, raising cash from celebrities in California on Sunday, took a good-natured shot at his own underwhelming debate performance, marvelling at how his friends in the entertainment business could turn in flawless showings every time.
Mr Obama spoke at the start of a two-day fundraising swing through California, his final one out West of this election, and one that was expected to raise several millions dollars for advertising efforts to the finish. Just one month remains in the tight race to decide who will occupy the White House.
"I can't always say the same," Mr Obama said of his debate performance, compared to those of his entertainment business friends. He spoke to thousands of supporters who got the joke right away.
It was Mr Obama's most direct acknowledgement that his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, won their debate on Wednesday as a tight race rolled into its last month.
Mr Obama appeared on stage after comments by actor George Clooney and performances by Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder and Jon Bon Jovi - and before a night-capping dinner for 150 guests at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at 25,000 dollars per person.
The swing through the solidly Democratic state highlights the critical role that fundraising will play in the campaign's final weeks as Mr Obama and his Republican rival Mr Romney escalate their barrage of television ads in competitive states like Ohio in the run-up to the November 6 election. The president is due to return there on Tuesday.
A jobs report on Friday showing unemployment at the lowest levels of Mr Obama's presidency, down to 7.8%, was quickly followed on Saturday by a fundraising report showing Mr Obama and Democrats had raised 181 million dollars in September.
It was their best fundraising month of the campaign, but fell short of their record 190 million dollars raised in September 2008 as the president campaigned for his first term.
Mr Romney's campaign has not released its report for the month, and Republicans sought to downplay Mr Obama's financial advantage. The party's national chairman, Reince Priebus, said he had been counting all along on being outraised by Mr Obama and Democrats.
"This isn't going to come down to money. This is going to come down to heart," Mr Priebus said. "We'll beat them on the ground, and we'll have all the money we need to be competitive."