President Barack Obama, raising cash from celebrities in California, 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 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 acknowledgment 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, Jon Bon Jovi - and before a night-capping dinner for 150 guests at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at 25,000 US 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, Mitt Romney, escalate their barrage of television ads in competitive states like Ohio in the run-up to the November 6 election. The president is to return there tomorrow.
Mr Romney, campaigning in up-for-grabs Florida, sought to build on the momentum from a debate performance last week that even Democrats conceded was "masterful".
The Republican told a crowd of about 12,000 in Port St Lucie that he had enjoyed himself, ticking off a list of Obama shortcomings he said he had exposed during the first debate.
"Now of course, days later, we're hearing his excuses," Mr Romney said. "And next January we'll be watching him leave the White House for the last time."