From tossing praise to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to hamming it up with Sen. Bob Casey, it was clear that President Barack Obama felt at ease during his series of fundraisers Tuesday that culminated with a chat with well-heeled contributors at the Franklin Institute.
Air Force One brought the president to Philadelphia around 5:30 in the afternoon, and he was immediately whisked to the series of fundraisers, all held at the Institute. The first fundraiser was a $250-per-person, 500-person fundraising reception, followed by a campaign roundtable in which 25 of Philadelphia’s ace Obama re-election campaign donors paid $40,000 each to listen to the president discuss his campaign tactics. Obama then delivered remarks over dinner to 75 people who paid $10,000 each for the pleasure.
Final tally? The Obama Victory Fund — the joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and a consortium of state Democratic parties — pocketed a cool $1.875 million from Philadelphians to help Obama avoid becoming the first sitting wartime president to ever lose a re-election bid.
That money could help, as several polls show that Mitt Romney, Obama’s Republican challenger in the November general elections, is leading Obama on the money trail.
But that was for consideration for another night; on Tuesday evening, it was all about encouraging believers to dig in for the fight ahead — both financially and through sheer effort.
“So I’m here not just because I need your help, although I do. I’m here because the country needs your help. When you think back to 2008, a lot of you were involved in that campaign. You didn’t get involved because you thought Barack Obama was the odds-on favorite to become president of the United States. Let’s face it. That was a long shot. The reason we came together was because we shared a belief in the basic bargain that built this country; the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to take responsibility, that in this country you can make it,” Obama said. “That you can find a job that pays a living wage, and you can save and buy a home. You can send your kids to college so they do even better than you did. You can retire with some dignity and some respect. The idea that no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what your faith, no matter who you love, that in America you can make it if you try.”
Obama’s comments mirror election-trail comments he made four years ago; trumpeting the do-your-part mantra, insisting the American society as a whole can and will benefit if everyone just rolls up their collective sleeves.
“It’s that idea that builds the broadest middle class in the history of the world and that was and has been the strength of America, the backbone of America, is that everybody had a shot,” the president said. “And we felt back in 2008 that those ideals were being lost, that we had taken a wrong turn. We had taken a surplus, left behind by President Clinton, and turned it into deficits as far as the eye could see — not because we invested in our economic future, but because we gave tax cuts to folks who didn’t need them and weren’t even asking for them. We put two wars on a credit card. Our economy increasingly was built on financial speculation and a housing bubble. Manufacturing was leaving our shores.”
Obama played up his role as the everyman, drawing a stark contrast between international companies and the multi-millionaires who owned them, and the average unionized employee making 20 bucks an hour.
“And although a few people were doing really, really well, that broad-based middle class that built this country, that was the essence of this country, found themselves — you found yourselves — in a situation where wages, incomes were flat-lining, and job growth was the most sluggish it had been in 50, 60 years, and the cost of everything from health care to college education kept on going up and up and up. And it all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — three million jobs lost in the six months before I took office, while we were campaigning; 800,000 jobs lost the month that I was sworn into office,” Obama explained. “And so we had to make a series of tough decisions and decisive decisions and quick decisions, and we had to do it without much help from the other side. But the thing that gave me confidence throughout was what I had learned about the American people as I traveled all across the country — and it is a great privilege just running for President, and obviously a greater privilege being President, because you meet Americans from every walk of life, and they show you their grit and they show you their determination. And it turns out Americans are tougher than any tough times.”
That was a veiled attack on Romney’s record as both Governor of Massachusetts and as an executive with Bain Capital. Before ending his remarks, Obama did take a not-so-veiled shot at his challenger, all but calling out Romney for his much-maligned comments he would have let the Detroit auto industry fail rather than bail them out, as Obama (and his predecessor, President George Bush) did.
“And so when some people said we should let Detroit go bankrupt, we decided, ‘No, we’re going to make a bet on the American worker and American industry.’ And because of the actions that we took, GM is back on top and we’re seeing the auto industry rehiring and producing better cars than ever,” Obama said to thunderous applause. “We helped to stabilize the financial system so small businesses could get help again and get credit and financing flowing again; businesses got back to basics and we created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months; 800,000 this year alone.
“So we’ve made progress,” Obama said. “And the reason we made progress was in part because of our policies, but in part because Americans everywhere figured out how they were going to respond.”