President Obama visits SF for fundraisers

President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One at Detroit Metro Airport as he travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., to deliver the commencement address at the University of Michigan, Saturday, May 1, 2010. Obama is scheduled to the Gulf Coast on Sunday for a firsthand update on oil spill. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
May 26, 2010 4:42:37 PM PDT
Air Force One touched down at San Francisco International Airport, just before 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. President Barack Obama arrived in the Bay Area on a campaign swing to preserve the Democratic majority in Congress.

The president is in San Francisco for two fundraising events for Sen. Barbara Boxer. He stepped off Air Force One in a light rain, with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom waiting on the tarmac to greet him. A few minutes later, his motorcade left for the Fairmont Hotel where the first fundraiser took place at 6 p.m.

There was a whole collection of protesters gathered near the Fairmont. Code Pink were protesting the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other groups included Peace and Freedom Party, a group protesting the U.S. immigration policy, Gray Panthers who want hands off their Social Security, and people who want to see the president seize British Petroleum in retaliation for that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. However, one of the largest groups was not present in front of the Fairmont; they gathered a block away.

In front of Grace Cathedral, was a demonstration not against the president, but an encouragement for him to take up comprehensive immigration reform. Among those present, was 22-year-old Mario Mendoza -- the Guatemalan native who is facing imminent deportation.

This is a blue state, but Boxer may face strong opposition from any of the Republican candidates Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell and Chuck Devore. So, Boxer is trying to raise as much money as possible.

The big money was at the Getty home. People paid $17,000 to attend the private reception. The motorcade wound its way through elegant Pacific Heights to the mansion as neighbors tried to get a peek at the president.

Earlier, Obama spoke to about 1,000 supporters at the Fairmont Hotel; first at a VIP event and then at the big fundraiser in the Grand Ballroom.

He said it was a challenge trying to improve the health of the country after eight years of a Republican administration.

"Here you got folks driving the car in the ditch and then we're out there in the mud, pulling the car out of the ditch, and they are sitting there comfortable, drinking on a Slurpee or something," said Obama. "So then we finally get the car out of the ditch, and they want the keys back. Say, 'No, you can't have the keys.'"

The president was interrupted during his speech by a heckler who said he wasn't moving fast enough to change the military's policy on gays and lesbians.

"Move faster on Don't Ask, Don't Tell!" yelled the heckler.

"Maybe he didn't read the newspapers because we are working with Congress as we speak to roll back Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said Obama.

Political pundits say Sen. Boxer is facing the toughest fight of her life. She's been criticized by her Republican opponents who are trying to seize the anti-incumbent fever now spreading across the country.

"I've got not only my three opponents denouncing me every day, they've turned me into every creature you can imagine," said Boxer. "But I even have the two main Republican gubernatorial candidates fighting over which one is working harder to defeat moi. What did I do to them?"

The fundraiser drew about 1,000 supporters and raised about $1.75 million, $600,000 of it to the Boxer campaign. The rest will go to other senatorial races. Those who attended both the VIP reception and the main fundraiser said it was worth their money.

"We are so fortunate to have him as our president. I think that was the feeling in the room," said Connie Codding from Santa Rosa.

The motorcade took the president to the Marriott Marque Hotel in Downtown San Francisco where he is spending the night. Obama leaves the Bay Area late Wednesday morning.

Obama draws protesters outside the Fairmont Hotel

Hundreds of protesters were at the Fairmont to greet the president on Tuesday night even though this is probably the bluest city in the country. Police set up a lot of barricades to keep them all back. Many say they showed up because they wanted the president to know exactly what they thought of him.

The emotions were all over the map with anger, frustration, and even admiration -- all of it focused on Obama.

Hundreds of protesters and several groups each had their own message opposing the president's stance on off shore drilling, immigration, and spending.

"We can't let these crazy people spend us into oblivion," said Bill Fazakery, a Pleasanton Tea Party member.

There was a strange sense of unity on Mason Street. Groups that are normally fundamentally opposed to one another, like Tea Partiers and immigrant rights supporters, were suddenly on the same side -- the one against President Obama.

"Obama has simply been following Bush administration polices and we really need a humane immigration system," said Francisco Ugarte, a San Francisco resident.

"Right now he's at a fundraiser dinner when he should be cleaning up oil," said Heather Gass, an East Bay Tea Party member.

Roughly 500 people packed the sidewalk across from the Fairmont. Police set up barricades and separated the groups into two -- the Tea Party on one side, and everyone else on the other.

Bianca Rojo had a personal message for the president.

"I want him to know just like his family is together, I deserve to be with mine too, so we need immigration reform," said Bianca Rojo, a 19-year-old SFSU student.

Rojo was born in the U.S., but her parents were here illegally and they were deported to Mexico, five years ago.

Still, there were some in the crowd who still believed in the president and if given the chance, wanted to praise him.

"I would pat him on the back and say, 'You're doing a good job,'" said Hami Ramani, an Obama supporter.

Police say they had no major problems and no arrests were made.

On Wednesday, the focus turns to jobs. President Obama will tour Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer in Fremont, where he'll talk to workers about the economy.

Solyndra received $500 million in stimulus money last year to help build a plant. The company estimates the project will create 3,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs.

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