Democrats opened their wallets for President Barack Obama at a series of well-attended fundraisers in San Antonio and Austin Tuesday.
The Washington Post ’s David Nakamura noted that the trip was something of a departure for Obama, who has mainly stuck to campagning in swing states as of late. But as departures go, this was a lucrative one: the president was expected to rake in up to $4 million, which would, Nakamura noted, “surpass his previous single-day Texas record.”
Air Force One touched down at San Antonio International Airport at 11:15 a.m., and Obama quickly headed to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to give a luncheon speech.
“You’re not considered one of those battleground states. But that’s going to change,” Obama told the crowd of 1,200 at the convention center, who had paid at least $250 a person to attend.
The president then headed to a reception with big donors at the home of product liability lawyer Mikal Watts in the Dominion, according to Hearst’s John W. Gonzalez and Peggy Fikac. The 75 people in attendance paid, at the minimum, $35,800 per couple.
After four hours in San Antonio, the president took a short flight to Austin, landing just in time to snarl traffic on the highways and downtown for evening rush hour. But those gathered along the route eager for a glimpse of the president didn’t seem to mind.
Obama’s 35-minute speech in front of a giant American flag at the Austin Music Hall touched upon many familiar notes from the campaign. According to the Texas Tribune ’s Julián Aguilar, Obama:
…touted his administration’s accomplishments, like passing federal health care reform and killing terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. Though Obama acknowledged there was more to do and said he was not the “perfect” president, he painted an ominous picture of America if the White House was once again home to a Republican president.
“Their basic theory is that if you take Bush tax cuts, on top of that you add a layer of $5 trillion more tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, and you eliminate regulations on polluters and regulations we put in place to prevent another meltdown on Wall Street … and let folks at the very top maximize their profits that we will all do better,” he said.
The president also touched on topics dear to the hearts of Texas Democrats, including pledging to continue funding Planned Parenthood and to support the DREAM Act. He also kept up his recent sharp attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain:
“Governor Romney’s main calling card for running for office is his business experience, so understandably the American people have been asking, ‘Well, let’s find out what he’s been doing,’” he said. “And if your main experience is investing in companies that are called ‘pioneers of outsourcing,’ then that indicates that we have different visions.”
Obama was then whisked across downtown to a swanky dinner fundraiser at the Four Seasons Residence as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. His limo sped down Cesar Chavez past the circular driveway of the hotel (where a crowd had gathered), instead entering the apartment building from a side entrance off Trinity Street, where a bevy of Secret Service agents and police officers were congregated.
The price tag for that fundraiser was $25,000 a couple. Afterwards, a crowd of mostly silver-haired donors streamed out of the building.
Press were only allowed at that event for ten minutes, according to the Austin American-Statesman ’s Chuck Lindell. “Pool was escorted out after about 10 minutes from POTUS for a private conversation with those in attendance, who, according to two people present, had their cell phones and any recording devices taken away so the president could speak openly without worrying about it being repeated, tweeted or posted,” he wrote.
But during the time the press was present, Obama did say he was “real interested in watching the bats fly out.”
The day also contained some high drama for the press traveling with the president, according to Gonzales and Fikac:
Tuesday’s presidential commotion slowed traffic downtown but played worse havoc with freeway motorists. Traffic backed up as roads were cleared of all vehicles for the fast-moving entourage — so fast that it briefly lost several components. Led by police escorts, three vans carrying national media darted into opposing lanes of traffic downtown and onto freeway shoulders, then hit speeds of 80 mph on I-10 West before reuniting with the motorcade en route to the Dominion.
But Obama did not receive warm tidings from Governor Rick Perry, who issued a snippy press release before Air Force One had even touched down in the state. In a statement, Perry asked the president to apologize for remarks Eric Holder made last week at the NAACP convention in Houston.
“In labeling the Texas voter ID law as a ‘poll tax,’ Eric Holder purposefully used language designed to inflame passions and incite racial tension. It was not only inappropriate, but simply incorrect on its face. The president should apologize for Holder’s imprudent remarks and for his insulting lawsuit against the people of Texas,” Perry said in a statement.