SAN FRANCISCO -- President Barack Obama is in the Bay Area today for two Democratic fundraisers.
He arrived at San Francisco International Airport Tuesday at 9:18 p.m., a little more than six hours after he landed in Seattle for fundraisers at the homes of Democratic donors Bruce and Ann Blume and Costco CEO Jim Sinegal.
The president, who was accompanied by his senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, stood briefly at the plane's exit and waved to the media before he stepped into a waiting limousine. He was whisked away to the his San Francisco hotel, where he spent the night.
This morning the president attended an event to raise money for the House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC, at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. He then attended a Democratic fundraising luncheon at real estate developer George Marcus' Los Altos Hills home, where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised money for campaigns across the country.
Tickets for the event started at $10,000, for a photo opportunity and lunch, and ran up to $32,400 for a VIP photo opportunity and lunch. In attendance were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel; and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Marcus over the years himself has contributed more than $1.5 million to various political causes, mostly Democratic.
Big crowds assembled on the Foothill College campus -- where Obama's helicopter landed -- to watch the motorcade take off for the Marcus home.
It was a sunny, breezy day in Los Altos Hills as Marine One touched down at 11:10 am. There to greet the president were Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and officials from the Foothill-DeAnza College District.
"We Love Obama," one sign said as the presidential motorcade made its way through Los Altos Hills. There was also a crowd of "net neutrality" protesters greeting the motorcade, two dozen with signs such as "Don't Kill the Internet."
Then farther on came another crowd of protesters, several dozen of varying concerns: "Immigration Not Deportation," "Migrant Lives Matter," "Stop Bombing Gaza" and "Stop US aide to Israel."
Shortly before noon, guests gathered at tables under a tent next to a tennis court in Marcus' sumptuous backyard. The president strode into the tent at 11:59 a.m. and was briefly introduced by Marcus.
Obama said there are two reasons he's here: the fine weather and the connection he made with George and Judy Marcus' infant granddaughter.
"I may take her with me," Obama said, lauding the real estate mogul as someone who has lived the American dream, remembers it and wants to give back. He praised Pelosi, who was seated in the middle of the crowd, saying he needs her back as speaker. He also recognized Eshoo as well as Democratic congressional candidates Michael Eggman and Amanda Renteria. Also in the audience were Pelosi's daughters Christina and Alexandra, and her son Paul Jr.
"One of my main functions here is to just say thank you" for all the support in years past, the president said.
"When we came into office, we were going through the worst economy since the Great Depression," he said, but the record of the past five years is "some pretty remarkable progress" with the economy improved by almost every measure. Also, millions more Americans have health care, he noted, while high school dropouts have decreased and college enrollments have increased.
Silicon Valley represents the spirit of dynamism that typifies the American economy, he said, yet there's still a lot of anxiety as profits have accrued almost only to those at the very top while the middle class "is stuck; they feel like they're treading water."
"It feels as if Washington doesn't work" and ignores those in need, he said.
Investing in things like early childhood education will bring massive returns, Obama said, and 28 million would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage. Helping working families with child care would relieve a great burden, and ensuring equal pay for women who do equal work would help support families, he said.
"We have some big technical issues -- what's the next big energy breakthrough that's going to help us fully contain the impacts of climate change," he said -- and economic issues, too.
"But if we just took some common-sense steps, this country would grow faster... and families would be better off," he said.
The reason things aren't working is that one party is interested only in proving that government doesn't work, and saying no to those kinds of steps, Obama said.
"I hope that the reason you're here today is that you want to get something done. ... We have to break this cycle of gridlock and cynicism," he said, adding that both parties can and should work to advance the common good. "I'd love nothing more than a loyal and rational opposition, but that's not what we have right now."
Democrats must overcome their "congenital defect" of not voting in mid-term elections, he said, and get as fired up about November as they did about his own campaigns in 2008 and 2012. "I need partners, I need help."
The president concluded his remarks at 12:13 and the press was ushered out before he began taking questions. He did acknowledge his admiration of one reporter's fedora as the press departed.
Obama will fly to Los Angeles this afternoon to attend another fundraiser and then speak to community college students Thursday. He will return to Washington, D.C., on Friday for meetings with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to discuss illegal immigration from Central America.
Republicans have criticized Obama for not canceling the long-planned fundraising trip.
"With all that's happening in our country and around the world -- wildfires, droughts and international crises, I think everyone can agree the last thing the president should be doing right now is raising money for Democrats," said Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short.
White House officials, however, say Obama is able to carry out both his presidential duties and attend to crises while traveling.
"In terms of fundraising, it's a responsibility that presidents in both parties for generations have been responsible for," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday. "And the president, like his predecessors, is interested in supporting members of his party who are on the ballot in 2014 -- and that's part of what he'll be doing over the course of this week."
Obama was expected to take off for Los Angeles about 1:20 p.m. from SFO.
Contact Andie Waterman at 408-920-5064. Follow her at Twitter.com/WaterAndie.