President Obama hit the campaign trail on Sunday and Monday, touching base with some of his deepest-pocketed West Coast backers at seven fundraisers in Washington state and California. The two-day swing is expected to net the Obama Victory Fund roughly $8 million.
Obama referred to attendees as “my stockholders" at a cocktail party at a Woodside, Calif., mansion on Sunday. His audience had paid upward of $2,500 to attend the event. Later that evening, the president took questions at an Atherton, Calif., dinner that cost attendees $35,800. Lady Gaga sat in the front row.
The West Coast trip comes as the president’s poll numbers continue to slide. Only 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, according to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll. Seventy-five percent of self-identified Democrats and 35 percent of independents still approve of the president, according to Gallup's weekly data.
Obama acknowledged in remarks to donors on Sunday that his reelection will be an uphill struggle and that some progressives have become disillusioned with his leadership. But he also emphasized how his priorities differ from those of the Republican Party— and the Republican presidential field. More than once, the president asked attendees to fight for the passage of his job-creation legislation, the American Jobs Act.
The Republican vision, Obama said on Sunday, “is an approach to government that will fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.” He spoke of investing in infrastructure and education, protecting the environment, protecting consumers, and making sure that everyone pays their fair share.
“I’m happy to contrast that with a vision that says somehow we’ve got to shrink our vision about what America is, that we can’t afford a safety net, we can’t afford environmental laws, we can’t afford a fair tax code,” Obama said.
Former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, Symantec Chairman John Thompson, and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg hosted fundraisers for Obama at their homes on Sunday. The president also delivered remarks at a 800-person fundraiser at the Paramount Theater in Seattle.
On Monday, Elizabeth and Mason Phelps will host a luncheon for the president at their La Jolla, Calif., home. Tickets start at $5,000. Later Monday afternoon, Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson will introduce Obama at a 1,000-person event at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, according to a Democratic National Committee official. Tickets start at $250. Obama wraps up Monday with an exclusive dinner that will cost attendees upwards of $17,900 per person. The event has no formal host, but Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and consultant Andy Spahn are among those who donated enough to earn the "cohost" designation, CNN reported.
Obama’s West Coast trip comes ahead of the September 30 third-quarter reporting deadline. Proceeds from his fundraisers will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint account of the DNC and Obama for America. The maximum an individual can give to a campaign committee each year is $30,800.
Obama aimed to put his first term in context in his remarks to donors on Sunday. He outlined his achievements--including health care reform, the bailout of the auto industry, the repeal of the military's '"don't ask, don't tell" policy, and new fuel-economy standards for commercial vehicles.
The president noted that forces beyond his control have helped keep the economy in the doldrums and prevented him from delivering legislative change. In Seattle, he called the recession “an international crisis,” and he spoke of a “global shift” away from job security in Atherton. In Woodside, the president spoke of the “fundamental structural problems” that hold middle-class families back.
Obama also blamed congressional Republicans.
“From the moment that I took office, what we’ve seen is a constant ideological push-back against any kind of sensible reforms that would make our economy work better and give people more opportunity,” Obama said at his first Seattle fundraiser. “These games have to stop.”
"The Republicans are dusting off their old talking points" and crying "class warfare" over the tax increases for the rich outlined in the American Jobs Act, Obama told his audience at the Paramount Theater a few hours later. "If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a warrior for the middle class, I'll wear that charge--I'll wear that as a badge of honor,” the president said.
“We've got so much more work to do to make sure that everyone in this country gets a fair shake, to make sure that every American has a chance to get ahead,” Obama said. He called on his audience to support him in 2012, so “we can build an America that we talked about in 2008.”
This article appears in the September 26, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.