SAN FRANCISCO – In a city that prides itself for its liberal politics, President Obama on Wednesday touted to donors at two fundraisers his progressive policies such as universal health care and his repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military.
The city was a natural starting point for the Democratic incumbent presidential candidate to launch the West Coast leg of his early fundraising campaign — the city with great wealth and supporters who rallied behind him in the last election. Internet billionaire Marc Benioff hosted 200 guests at his Pacific Heights home where Stevie Wonder played the keyboard and sang and artist Will.i.am joined the president at his dinner table.
“This is an incredible setting but what makes it special is the fact that I’ve got a lot of friends in this room. As Marc indicated, people who are leaders, not just in this community, but nationally and internationally,” Obama said at the private dinner. “So many of you helped get this project started. Some of you were involved in start-ups. Well, I was a start-up just not so long ago.”
In the driveway of Benioff’s home, a Jaguar convertible was parked with the license plate “MR44FAN.”
By most indications, the San Francisco leg of his trip fulfilled his two goals of selling his deficit reduction plans and renewing donor support.
He was warmly welcomed at a town hall at the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto earlier in the day, where high-tech leaders touted his focus on science and math education and energy reforms. Working off his continued popularity in the Bay Area, Obama ended the day with an evening fundraiser at the Masonic Center with the slogan of his first campaign: “Yes we can.” His total California fundraising effort — in San francisco Wednesday and in Los Angeles on Thursday — is expected to reach about $4 million.
But Obama also acknowledged that making those changes have been difficult and that some supporters may be frustrated by a slow pace to fulfill campaign promises. Health-care reforms consumed much of the past couple years. He still wants to carry out reforms to energy policy and change immigration policies that would allow for skilled workers to enter the U.S. and stay legally.
Outside the Masconic center dozens of protesters held signs that read “Close Gitmo,” a reference to the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba that holds suspected terrorists. Others called for an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At Facebook, one protester outside the sprawling sterile corporate campus echoed Republican complaints of overspending.
“Change is not simple. It’s hard,” Obama said at the Masonic Center event.
When he listed his accomplishments such as the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” rules for sexual orientation for military members, he received a standing ovation from the estimated 2,500 attendees .
“Our work is not finished,” Obama said.
In response, a man called from the audience “Gay Marriage!”
After applause from the audience, Obama paused briefly before repeating: “Our work is not finished.”