By Scott Helman, Globe Staff
Happy Birthday indeed.
Boston's biggest names in Democratic politics, once divided into two camps during the presidential primary, united this evening to throw Barack Obama a 47th birthday fund-raiser bash.
The event at the swank State Room near Faneuil Hall was expected to bring in close to $5 million for Obama and the Democratic Party, which organizers say would make it the biggest political fund-raiser Boston has ever seen.
Harry Connick Jr. and his daughter crooned "Happy Birthday." About 850 people attended the reception, and about 250 paid $15,000 each -- $28,500 for a couple -- to dine with him afterward.
The fund-raiser, which sold out a week ago, was meant to be a coming-together of sorts for local supporters of Obama and of Hillary Clinton. Many of her backers were put off by the often divisive nature of their primary race, and what they felt was sexism in media coverage. Massachusetts, where admiration for the Clintons runs deep, gave her a sound victory in the primaries. But Bay State Democrats have joined forces to catapult Obama into the general election with his pockets full.
"Her own exhortation to her supporters, plus the sense of urgency about doing everything we can to help Barack Obama become the next president of the United States, has motivated an awful lot of us," said Steven Grossman, a leading Clinton fund-raiser and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "We all wanted to make a dramatic statement that we're with him every step of the way."
Alan Solomont, who heads Obama's fund-raising in New England, said tonight's event was a "joint effort" among supporters of both candidates.
"We've stopped thinking in terms of Hillary people and Obama people," he said. "What was good about this was that we got everybody involved."
Bold-faced names on the guest list included Governor Deval Patrick; Senator John F. Kerry; philanthropist Barbara Lee; former governor Michael Dukakis; and former European Union ambassador Richard Morningstar.
"Are you ready to win?" Patrick asked to cheers. "If you are like me, you are hungry for a change in direction."
"Iím proud to join in the celebration and the fund-raising," Patrick told reporters earlier today. "I think the campaign is strong and doing well. Itís going to be a long slog between now and election day, and there are by no means any foregone conclusions, and I think thatís important for supporters of Senator Obama to acknowledge and important for the campaign to remember. Thereís a lot of work still to be done to persuade the American people that the change in course that the Democratic Party is offering through Senator Obama is timely and right. I think it is, and I feel strongly about it, and I think that case is there to be made but Iím taking nothing for granted.Ē
For his part, Kerry was deeply critical of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. "He doesn't get it," Kerry said. "He's even dangerous, I think, for the direction of this country."
A new 7 News/Suffolk University poll shows McCain closing the gap in Massachusetts, as he appears to be nationally.
While the Bay State is reliably Democratic, Obama leads McCain 47 percent to 38 percent, down from a 23-percentage-point lead last month. The survey, conducted Thursday-Sunday, showed 13 percent undecided and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Obama noted that the last time he was at the State Room was right after he had lost the New Hampshire primary to Clinton in January, setting the stage for the primary marathon. Take heed from that loss, he told his backers.
"Everybody, I think, was taken aback, because we had won Iowa and there was this giddy sense that this thing is rolling, this thing is moving ... and then we lost," Obama said. "I recite all this history because we do have three more months of work in this campaign, and I think that there's a tendency, particularly for Democrats, to start feeling kind of giddy again after a primary, in the summer months."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.