President Obama Takes Battle To Mitt Romney’s Home Turf In Hunt For Cash, Swing Votes

President Obama, feeling the heat after a few tough weeks, is doing what he needs to win with his trip to New England today — going after swing voters and raising money, Democrats and other observers say.

This photo combo shows President Barack Obama in Chapel Hill, N.C. on April 24, 2012, and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on April 18, 2012 in Charlotte, N.C.

President Obama, feeling the heat after a few tough weeks, is doing what he needs to win with his trip to New England today — going after swing voters and raising money, Democrats and other observers say.

He’ll do the first in New Hampshire this afternoon, where he is engaging directly in a head-to-head fight for four electoral votes with GOP challenger Mitt Romney, who has made repeated visits in recent weeks. He’ll do the second in Massachusetts tonight, with three fundraisers targeting high powered supporters and their big bucks.

“This is going to be a very close election as it was in 2000 and 2004,” said Phil Johnston, former chairman of the state Democratic Party. “Every electoral vote becomes crucial in a close race ... It’s embedded in the memory of every Democrat that Al Gore would have defeated George W. Bush if he won New Hampshire in 2000.”

While Massachusetts’ Blue vote is largely taken for granted — the state’s electoral votes haven’t gone to a Republican since Ronald Reagan — Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh notes the Bay State is highly valued as a prime fundraising ground for liberal causes.

“Every Democrat who runs for president comes to Massachusetts to raise money. That’s a fact,” Marsh said, adding she agrees it will be a “very close race ... four electoral votes could be the difference between winning re-election or not.”

Obama will hold a speech at the Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., today before attending fundraisers in the Boston area, including a $40,000-a-head round table discussion with 25 people at Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End; a sold-out fund raiser at Symphony Hall with tickets at $250 to $10,000; and a dinner at the Weston home of Judith and Douglass Krupp with tickets costing nearly $18,000 each.

Obama already has raised more than $7.7 million in the Bay State in this election cycle, while Romney, a former Bay State governor, has pulled in $4.9 million.

But one top Bay State Democratic operative and Obama supporter said the president’s visit sets off alarms for the health of his campaign fund raising.

“There’s no reason for him to spend any time in Massachusetts other than he’s obviously desperate for money. That’s not a great sign,” said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I think there’s significant cause for concern on a number of fronts.”

“The past two months have been hell for an incumbent,” said Jim Nuzzo, a Boston-based Republican consultant. Recent weeks have seen poor jobs numbers, which precipitated a stock market plunge, the breaking of the Operation Fast and Furious gun trafficking scandal as a national news story, and reports of softening support among key groups such as black voters in swing state North Carolina. Pending this week is a much-anticipated Supreme Court decision on his health care law, which supporters fear may be overturned.

As Obama fights for votes in New Hampshire, where speculation is brewing that its junior U.S. Senator, Kelly Ayotte, could be Romney’s pick for vice president. “Kelly Ayotte is a real possibility for a vice presidential candidate,” Nuzzo said. “If she gets selected, then New Hampshire becomes most likely put in the Republican column and that’s something the president has to be concerned about.”