President Obama wrapping up trip to the Bay Area

April 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Obama wraps up his Bay Area visit with a fundraising breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown San Francisco this morning. He will then depart San Francisco International Airport at 10:35 a.m.

Obama is in the Bay Area for a series of events that look a lot like a campaign stop. Obama arrived in Air Force One at San Francisco International Airport at 1 p.m. Wednesday and then headed down to Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto for an online town hall. Following the Facebook stop, Obama headed to San Francisco for a fundraising dinner in Pacific Heights and a DNC fundraiser at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.

Obama reaches out to younger voters during Facebook visit

Facebook has something that Obama will need in his bid for re-election -- access to young voters. He got that by coming to Facebook to discuss some critical issues, but first he started with a bit of humor.

"My name is Barack Obama and I'm the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie," Obama said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's famously relaxed sense of style.

It was not the first time the president and Zuckerberg have been together; they had dinner a few weeks ago during the president's last Bay Area visit. The difference this time is that the president has kicked off his re-election campaign. His visit to Facebook is a clear sign he is after young voters.

"What Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn't just a one-way conversation, make sure I'm not only speaking to you, but you're also speaking back," Obama said.

The town hall meeting was streamed live on Facebook where the president has 19 million people 'like' his page. It was an hour-long, unedited dialogue that did not cost anything and did not trigger any requirement for a Republican response.

The questions came from Facebook employees and from people who submitted them to the social networking site ahead of the event. Many focused on the president's efforts to counter-punch the Republican budget cuts with a plan of his own.

With the president's re-election campaign underway, it is clear there is a strategy to go after young voters.

"I really think it's progressive thinking, definitely, it's the new way to communicate," young voter Gabriella Borga said.

However, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, points out Facebook also reaches older voters as well.

"The majority of the people on Facebook are over 50, so you get both parts of the demographic and it's a great way to communicate," Garamendi said.

According to a White House source, 30 percent of Obama's Facebook fans are under 25 and 29 percent are 45 or older.

Groups protest Obama's Facebook visit

The president's Facebook visit was met by a number of protesters. Being that this is the Bay Area, both liberal and conservative groups showed up.

When Obama's motorcade took a turn that avoided the waiting crowd, a handful of protestors marched onto Facebook property and were quickly unfriended.

"We're being disinvited to the party because the party is Obama and the Democrats," Heather Gass and David Salaverry said.

Obama supporters fired back with their own status update.

"Give him time; you can't fix the problems in two years, give the man time," Obama supporter Naomi Montelongo said.

People from all walks of life used the president's visit to make their voices heard. Those who helped elect him using social media say he now needs to use that same tool to stay in touch.

The sound bites came from his friend and foes. Tea party patriots were out in force.

"We're not violent, we're not raciest, but were not silent either," Tri Valley Patriot Raquel Vargas said.

The message getting the most hits had to do with the budget. In Silicon Valley, even the wealthy came out to support the president's proposal to give more.

"My wife and I make more than $250,000 a year; we're the ones that will be affected if the Bush tax credits expire and they should expire," tax break opponent Michael Young said.

If the president wanted to hear from real people Wednesday, he did not need Facebook, the passion comes through loud and clear offline.

"I have a child who loves and admires you, she's in a Head Start program that is funded by the very money you want to take away from us," Rovette Newborn said. "Please take the money from the rich people."

Pacific Heights dinner brings in big money for Obama

After leaving Facebook, Obama headed to San Francisco for a dinner at the home of Silicon Valley tycoon Marc Benioff. The $35,000-a-plate fundraiser, hosted by the CEO is said to be one of the most expensive Democratic fundraisers ever. It is believed that $30,000 will go to the Democratic National Committee and $5,000 will go to the Obama re-election war chest.

Obama speaks to crowd at Nob Hill Masonic Center

After the dinner, Obama headed to the Nob Hill Masonic Center for a DNC fundraiser that was a little more accessible for many Obama supporters. Tickets ranged from $25-$2,500, but supporters who paid $10,000 got a photo op with Obama.

The event sold all 2,500 seats. One of the people who helped ramp up the crowd before Obama spoke was former San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom were also in the audience.

Obama spoke for about 40 minutes and most were impressed with his speech. On his 22-hour swing through the Bay Area, Obama is estimated to raise as much as $3 million. The ultimate goal for his campaign is $1 billion.

At the Masonic Center protesters made sure they were front and center to voice their opinion. There were many different interest groups outside holding banners for health care, wild horses, to end the wars, tax breaks for the rich, education, and from both sides of the isle. They used the president's visit for their cause and followed Obama all day during his visit, at every stop he made.

The Obama supporters seemed to outweigh the protesters as the line to get into the Masonic Center snaked along the building and down the block.

There was a heavy police presence at the center and there were no incidents reported.

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