On Friday evening, Mr. Buffett was the host of a fund raiser for President Obama at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan, typically a magnet for the who’s who of finance. Democrats had bet that the star power of one of the world’s richest men would draw an overflow crowd of Wall Street’s elite for an affair that ran $10,000 a plate, or $35,800 for one-on-one time with Mr. Buffett.
Yet organizers had trouble drawing the biggest guns of finance. The president’s campaign reserved space for 130 guests but only 116 (including Democratic staff members) attended, according to people with knowledge of the matter but not authorized to speak on the record. And there were few marquee names on the guest list. James Chanos, the hedge fund executive, was among the better known of those who attended.
The event — which included on the menu some of Mr. Buffett’s favorites, like Cherry Coke and Dairy Queen ice cream — was considered a sell-out success by the Obama campaign. It easily raised more than $1.5 million for the campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Still, the turnout, strong but less than overwhelming, reflected the president’s broader struggles in attracting big-name support from those on Wall Street, whom he referred to as “fat cat bankers” in 2009. One person who attended described the atmosphere as subdued and said the event seemed to attract more Buffett followers than Obama supporters.
Mr. Buffett, a major investor in many of the nation’s biggest banks, remains undeterred. As others in business have moved to distance themselves from Mr. Obama, Mr. Buffett has found himself in a lonely role as the president’s ambassador among the moneyed set. He is endorsing not just Mr. Obama but also a policy like the so-called Buffett rule, which would increase taxes on the rich, as well as the view that America is exiting, not re-entering, a recession.
“I have always had people disagree with me on politics,” Mr. Buffett said in an interview. “You can go through life and just basically opt out of that field. I don’t blame anyone particularly, but I don’t want to do that. If I have views I will talk about them.”
Mr. Buffett’s more public embrace of Mr. Obama has cast a spotlight on this unlikely alliance between the Omaha-born son of a stockbroker turned Republican congressman and Mr. Obama, the Harvard-educated lawyer who forged his political career in Chicago.
Mr. Buffett said he first met Mr. Obama roughly six years ago, at a lunch arranged by the billionaire’s daughter, Susie. The pair broke bread at Kiewit Plaza in Omaha, where Mr. Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, is situated. At the time, Mr. Obama was only months into his freshman term in the Senate.