Obama collects $4 million in his hometown for re-election bid
BY DAN MIHALOPOULOS Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org August 12, 2012 9:40PM
President Obama delivers remarks at a fundraising reception Sunday August 12, 2012 at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: September 14, 2012 6:17AM
President Barack Obama zig-zagged across town Sunday, basking in a belated birthday serenade from campaign donors — and collecting as much as $4 million for his re-election bid from hometown backers.
A day after Paul Ryan was introduced as the GOP vice presidential candidate, Obama described Mitt Romney’s running mate as “the ideological leader of the Republicans in Congress.”
The president’s audience of about 1,000 backers on the South Side booed at the mention of Ryan, who hails from Wisconsin.
Obama shushed the jeering crowd at the Bridgeport Art Center: “No, no, no, no. I want to congratulate Congressman Ryan. I know him. I welcome him to the race. Congressman Ryan is a decent man. He is a family man. He is an articulate spokesman for Gov. Romney’s vision. But it’s a vision I fundamentally disagree with.”
In a 26-minute speech wedged between fund-raisers with ticket prices as high as $40,000, Obama repeatedly sought to paint the Republican plan for combating the nation’s weak economy as favoring the wealthiest Americans and hurting the vast majority of people.
“My opponent and Congressman Ryan and their allies in Congress, they all believe that if we just get rid of more regulations on big corporations and we give more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, it will lead to jobs and prosperity for everybody else,” Obama said. “They have tried to sell us this trickle-down fairy dust before and guess what? It didn’t work.”
A spokesman for Romney, who appeared with Ryan near Milwaukee on Sunday, said the GOP candidates “bring new ideas about creating jobs and controlling the budget.”
“We all know that President Obama will continue to run a fear and smear campaign because his policies have failed and he has no vision for the future of our country,” said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.
Romney’s campaign said he raised more than $2 million in donations in Chicago on Tuesday. Obama raked in between $3.5 million and $4 million during five events Sunday in the city, according to a source in the Obama camp.
The president’s two-day trip to Chicago came as he celebrated his 51st birthday, a milestone he reached on Aug. 4. Accordingly, tickets for the Bridgeport event were priced from $51. Most in the crowd were young adults, who serenaded the graying Obama with a rendition of “Happy Birthday Mr. President” when he took the stage in front of a big flag.
Obama urged them to volunteer to campaign for him in Iowa. He is scheduled to continue his campaign there Monday, embarking on a three-day bus trip through a state where the fight for electoral votes is expected to be very close.
The event in Bridgeport followed a much more exclusive fund-raiser at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. According to a campaign official, the event involved 25 people who donated $40,000 each.
After the Bridgeport reception, Obama returned home for a fund-raiser in the yard of his home in the Kenwood neighborhood. Tickets for that fund-raiser also were $40,000.
In remarks to about 100 donors there, Obama said he believed the choices in the November election reflected a widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans since voters chose him in 2008.
“My opponent, John McCain, believed in immigration reform, believed in campaign finance reform, believed in climate change,” Obama said of his rival in 2008. “We might have disagreed in terms of how to solve the problems, but there was a conversation going on and there were some rough agreement about the facts. That’s not so much the case now. You have a stark choice — as stark as we’ve seen in a generation at least.”
He then walked a few blocks to the next event, a $5,000-per-person photo reception at the home of close friend Marty Nesbitt and his wife, Anita Blanchard. Nesbitt is treasurer of the Obama for America campaign. Blanchard is the doctor who delivered the president’s two daughters.
The final event in the president’s fund-raising pentathlon was a $1,000-per-person reception at the home of Barbara Bowman, mother of White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Obama was at the home in June for the marriage of Jarrett’s daughter.
As his official limousine made its way across town between campaign stops earlier in the day, groups of people gathered along Lake Shore Drive. What appeared to be three military cadets stood to attention and saluted the commander-in-chief.
Obama flew to Chicago on Saturday, helicoptered to Soldier Field and in the afternoon met with his staff at campaign headquarters in the Prudential Building.
On Sunday, during the fund-raiser at his home, Obama remarked that he knew many of the donors at the event since he arrived in Chicago after law school, and he mused a bit about what the city means to him.
“This place is where I learned about the importance of bringing communities together to solve problems, and it’s also the place that produced my wife,” he said to applause. “So although I’m not born and bred South Side of Chicago, I think it’s fair to say I’m an adopted son of the South Side of Chicago. This is home.”
Contributing: Lynn Sweet