President Obama never uttered the words gay, same-sex or marriage, but during the loudest crescendo of applause Tuesday in a fundraising swing through Maryland, everyone seemed to know just what he meant.
The mass at the Hyatt ballroom near the Inner Harbor had already erupted in sustained applause as Obama listed the ways a vote for him would be, culturally, one to move “forward” with him, and not back, with Republican Mitt Romney.
“We don’t need another political fight … over a woman’s right to choose,” Obama said. “I want women to control their own health choices ...”
“We’re not going back to the days when you could get kicked out of the United States military because of who you are and who you love,” he said.
And after the circumspect reference to Maryland’s ballot fight on gay marriage, Obama also made a passing reference to immigration policy and the state’s November referendum on the Dream Act, which would let illegal immigrants in Maryland pay reduced, in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.
“It’s time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they are children of” undocumented immigrants, Obama said. “This country is at its best when it harnesses the God-given talents of every individual.”
The president’s careful word choices on Maryland’s emotional election-year ballot issues did not bother supporters.
“We are grateful the president highlighted the marriage referendum,” Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality said in a statement. “Voters identify with his journey on the issue and are rethinking their own position on same-sex marriage.”
Obama touched on the topics in the final minute of a series of three appearances in the state. Following fundraisers Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, Obama flew to Baltimore, lunched with some of Maryland’s most prolific Democratic donors, and then met with supporters both privately and publicly at the hotel.
The events had been in the works for weeks, but last week’s news that Romney had outraised Obama significantly in May, and for the first time over the course of a month, seemed to bring urgency to the events.
“I’m not just here because I need your help, although I do,” Obama said after taking the stage at the only public event.
Democratic fund raisers who helped coordinate the events said that combined the three appearances brought in about $2 million for the president’s reelection effort.
The vast majority came from a luncheon outside Baltimore at the home of developer Josh Fidler and his wife Genine Fidler, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to divulge the fundraising total.
Some attendees paid $50,000-per-person to attend the lunch, which was also attended by Maryland’s Democratic senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin. Later, about 15 business leaders paid $40,000 for what was described as a private “round-table” with Obama before his public rally.
Tickets to the rally ranged from $1,000, to as little as $100 for children.
Obama’s 30-minute address repeatedly circled around to the economy.
The president tried to push back against a line of attack that has dogged him since last week when he fumbled through an explanation of wanting to save public-sector jobs, saying “the private sector is doing fine.” Romney has since harped on the line repeatedly saying in speeches and in a television ad that the line showed Obama does not understand the economy.
Obama countered that Romney doesn’t understand a fundamental problem depressing the economy: Profits are helping those at the top, and harder work among those in the middle class is not translating into better pay.
“You can’t solve that problem, if you can’t even see it,” Obama said.
“My opponent in this election, Gov. Romney, is a patriotic American. He’s raised a wonderful family, and he should be proud of the personal success he achieved as the head of a large financial firm,” Obama said. “But I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from his experiences. He seems to believe if CEOs and wealthy investors like him are doing well, the rest of us automatically do well.
“The problem is that for over a decade … bigger profits at the top haven’t led to better jobs across the board. You can’t solve that problem, if you can’t even see it.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) introduced Obama, calling him a courageous and visionary leader. Obama reciprocated, calling O’Malley “one of the finest governors” in the nation. Obama also praised O’Malley for his leadership in helping to pass the gay marriage bill, which opponents appear likely to succeed in petitioning to the November ballot.
At times, Tuesday’s event seemed to echo O’Malley’s 2010 reelection campaign, with the governor leading a call-and-answer of “forward, not back,” the motto that has since been adopted as Obama’s reelection theme.