Obama spent more than an hour before dinner getting his picture taken with guests. He said later that people had encouraged him to be tougher and had questioned why he was so calm in a close race against Republican John McCain.
"I'm skinny but I'm tough," he said. "I'm from Chicago and we don't play. Just keep steady."
"If we can cut through the nonsense and the lipstick and the pigs and the silliness, then I'm absolutely convinced that we are going to win," Obama said, referring to some of the offbeat charges raised against him.
"The reason I'm calm ... is I've got confidence in the American people," he said. "I really think they want to see us do better."
McCain groused about Obama mixing it up with celebrities. He told a rally in Vienna, Ohio on Tuesday that Obama "talks about siding with the people, siding with the people just before he flies off to Hollywood for a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand and his celebrity friends. Let me tell you my friends, there's no place I'd rather be than here with the working men and women of Ohio."
A night earlier, McCain was with deep-pocketed donors in Florida and raised $5 million, a fact noted by Obama's campaign.
"I don't know who showed up down in Florida where he raised $5 million but my guess is that it wasn't a lot of nurses, firefighters and police officers," Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, told reporters. "The whole corporate lobbying community is rallying to his side. We're going to have to struggle to keep pace. You can't challenge that group and not expect them to have a lot of money."