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U.S. president sweats over sweaters during NY shopping stop

U.S. President Barack Obama looks for gifts for his family with salesperson Susan Panariello after stopping off at the GAP in New York, Marc
U.S. President Barack Obama looks for gifts for his family with salesperson Susan Panariello after stopping off at the GAP in New York, Marc

By Steve Holland

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took on a daunting task on Tuesday: shopping for clothes for his wife and daughters during a brief stop at a Gap store while raising money for Democrats in New York.

Obama was in New York to attend fundraisers aimed at building up campaign war chests for this year's midterm congressional elections, which he said are key to how much of his agenda he can get done in the rest of his time in office.

"I don't have time to waste... I want to squeeze every last bit of work that I can during the remainder of my term so that looking back I'll be able to say we left everything on the field," he said at the second of the events, which was staged to help Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate.

Obama's first stop was at a Gap store, where the president sorted carefully through sweaters in search of a purchase for one of his two daughters, Sasha and Malia, before holding up a pink one.

"I'm worried the V-neck is going to slip," the president said before opting for a regular-cut neck.

Moving to the adult women's section, Obama declared wife Michelle difficult to shop for: "Maybe I should buy some socks."

Obama had dropped by a Midtown Manhattan branch of the clothing chain to thank Gap Inc for its decision to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour this year and $10 an hour in 2015. He has been campaigning to persuade businesses and Congress to raise wages for workers at the bottom of the scale.

After picking a pair of sweaters and a blue workout jacket, Obama moved to the cash register, as reporters, photographers, aides, and Secret Service agents looked on.

"I think the ladies will be impressed by my style sense," he said, before admitting that his goal was to makes sure "that I didn't completely screw up."

Using a credit card to pay, Obama pretended that he did not know that he could sign his name on the credit card machine.

"Oh wow. So, you can sign the machine?" he said.

As reporters took note, Obama said he was teasing: "They had these around the last time I shopped."

PRESIDENT PRAISES MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE

Obama then thanked Gap for raising the minimum wage for its employees and urged other companies to do the same.

"It's not only good for them and their families, it's also good for the entire economy," he said.

The president was the headliner at the two fundraisers, which are part of an effort to make sure Democrats are well funded in congressional elections in November, in which they are scrambling to retain control of the U.S. Senate.

The party that controls the White House usually loses seats in midterm elections and Republicans are optimistic they will be able to build on their majority in the House of Representatives and possibly grab control of the Senate.

The first fundraiser was a roundtable discussion for the Democratic National Committee at the home of venture capitalist Alan Patricof, a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton. The 25 supporters in attendance contributed up to $32,400.

The second was an event for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee at the home of Blackstone Group President Tony James and his wife, Amie. Tickets for the event were $32,400. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio attended.

Standing in the dining room and speaking through a hand-held microphone, Obama urged Democrats to help.

"The fact of the matter is that Democrats are not without our flaws. We have our blind spots and we have our dogmas and we have our, you know, crazy folks. But as a whole this is a party that is serious about making sure that America is growing and offering opportunity to everybody," Obama told about 50 Democratic loyalists.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)

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