Obama: ‘Everything that we fought for is now at stake in this election’
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 11, 2012 5:12PM
President Barack Obama addresses supporters at the UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd., in the first of three fund-raising events Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: February 13, 2012 9:22AM
Trying to jump-start his re-election with hometown fund-raisers and rallies, President Barack Obama told 500 cheering fans Wednesday, “Everything that we fought for is now at stake in this election.”
He repeated the message at more intimate gatherings in private homes in Lake View and Kenwood. He fired up the troops in his very first visit to his national headquarters in the Prudential Building. And he even stopped in to his own home for 20 minutes at the end of the night before flying back to Washington, D.C.
He hopes the fund-raisers bring in more than $2 million for what he told donors would be a “close race.”
“If you’re willing to work even harder in this election than you did in the last election, I promise you, change will come. God bless you Chicago, I love you!” he told the 500 fans at the UIC Forum after R&B singer Janelle Monae warmed them up. So did Obama’s Harvard Law School classmate CSI NY Star Hill Harper, while about 100 protesters shouted outside.
Talking to 140 of his neighbors and old friends just a few blocks from his home in Kenwood, he joked, “Is somebody mowing the grass in front of my house? I’m going to go over there and check.”
His neighbor, Bear Stearns Executive Stuart Taylor told him, “Our message to you on behalf of everyone gathered here is very simple and that is: We’ve got your back, despite what you might hear or read.”
His friends cheered.
“If you look around the room, these are people who were there for you going way back,” Taylor said. “We’re here for you. We’re no less enthusiastic this time around than we were the last time.”
Obama flew to Chicago on Air Force One with senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and outgoing chief of staff Bill Daley, who left after a rough year on the job this week.
“I want to say a special word about a friend of ours, a man who has done extraordinary work for me and performed extraordinary service for our country over the past year, Bill Daley,” Obama said at the first event of the night at UIC. “As much as I will miss him in the White House, he will be an extraordinary asset to our campaign. He’s going to be helping us win in 2012.”
Obama listed all the promises he said his administration had delivered on – health care; gays able to serve in the military; bringing the troops home. He also listed the issues he said his Republican opponents were wrong on: education funding, environmental protection and worker rights. Obama slammed his GOP opponents without mentioning their names:
“When you’ve got the top Republican saying his No. 1 priority isn’t creating more jobs, solving the health care problems; it isn’t making sure were competitive in the 21st century, but it’s to beat me — then you know things aren’t on the level,” Obama said. “They’ll fight with their last breath to protect tax cuts for the most fortunate in America, but they’ll play political games with tax cuts for the middle class.”
Playing to the crowd, Obama said, “I’ll be honest with ya: I wouldn’t mind popping over to the United Center — I think the Bulls are playing tonight. They are off to a fine start. You might have heard the Dallas Mavericks came to the White House on Monday to celebrate their championship. I told them to ‘Enjoy it — because the Bulls will be here next year.’”
About 100 protesters organized by Occupy Chicago gathered across from the Forum, where some students got in for as little as $44. VIPs paid $1,000. Some protestors criticized the large number of deportations. A few protestors stood among Obama fans across the street from his second stop at Newsweb Founder Fred Eychaner’s Lake View home.
One held a sign calling the exclusive gathering of 60 Obama fans paying $35,800 a couple a “Solyndra Board Meeting.”
Against the eclectic collection of artwork and sculptures adorning the concrete walls of Eychaner’s home, Obama identified in the room: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whom he recognized as his seatmate in the state legislature; Gov. Pat Quinn; and Sen. Dick Durbin. Obama jokingly recognized “carpet-bagger” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), former Senate candidate Blair Hull, whose loss helped send Obama to the U.S. Senate.
Obama joked about having to return to these donors so often to ask for money.
“This will be my last campaign,” Obama assured them. He quoted former federal appellate justice and Clinton White House Counsel Abner Mikva: “Being friends with a politician is like permanently having a child in college: Every year another tuition check. But I’m finally graduating.”
Even though this is his first visit to his campaign headquarters, Illinois Republicans charge that most of his administration’s key decisions are made at the Prudential Building — and not the White House.
“There hasn’t been a decision out of the White House in three weeks that’s not political,” said Illinois Republican party Chairman Pat Brady.