President Obama dropped into Seattle Tuesday for a pair of high-priced fundraisers to bolster his re-election campaign against Republican Mitt Romney.

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President Obama drew contrasts between himself and his Republican rival at a high-priced Eastside fundraiser Tuesday night, framing the election as a choice between economic improvement and returning to the failed policies of former President George W. Bush.

Speaking before a well-heeled crowd at a private home in Hunts Point, Obama described in broad terms his differences with presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, whom he did not name.

“The debate in this campaign is going to be whether we continue down that road to progress or whether we take a sharp turn back toward those policies that I believe got us into this mess in the first place,” Obama said.

The president said Romney wants to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich, turn Medicare into a voucher system and cut spending on scientific research.

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He also dismissed his opponent’s claims that Obama doesn’t appreciate business success.

“We want success,” the president said. “We just want to make sure that everybody has a shot.”

Obama was in town for two fundraisers to bolster his re-election campaign.

Both events, closed to the public, were held at the home of Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal and his wife, Janet, along the shores of Lake Washington.

Obama spoke from under a white tent behind the sprawling home. About 200 guests who paid $5,000 or more to attend sat on wooden chairs facing the house.

The president spoke for only a few minutes before taking questions from the audience. Reporters were escorted from the area as the questions were to begin.

Before his remarks, Obama met with about two dozen business leaders at a $35,800-per-person round-table.

The events were expected to raise about $1.75 million for the Obama campaign and affiliated committees, according to Democratic Party officials.

Obama was spending the night at the Hilton Bellevue hotel before leaving Wednesday morning for New Orleans, where he’s scheduled to attend two fundraisers and speak at the National Urban League conference.

Drivers can expect traffic delays during the Wednesday morning commute as Obama travels to Boeing Field.

This was Obama’s sixth visit to Seattle since being elected president.

The Hunts Point neighborhood where the fundraisers were held was dotted with a few Romney campaign signs, and both Obama supporters and opponents turned out to watch his motorcade.

Along the road, three young girls held a sign that said, “We love Obama.”

As the president’s limousine passed, one said, “I saw him! He waved to us!”

Michelle Neal, a Romney supporter who lives in the neighborhood, posted a sign that said “$15 trillion and counting. Now that’s a lot of change,” referring to the national debt.

Neal said it was hypocritical of Obama to hold such high-priced fundraisers. “He’s always claiming to be of the people,” she said.

Among the attendees at the Hunts Point home were Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman, Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes, former Delta Air Lines CEO Gerald Grinstein, Microsoft Executive Vice President and general counsel Brad Smith and NBA legends Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens, as well as prominent state Democrats.

Earlier, Obama was greeted at Boeing Field by a dozen community and business leaders and local party volunteers. He then approached a crowd of several dozen onlookers, shaking a few hands before speeding off for Hunts Point.

The state Department of Transportation left its tolling cameras on while the presidential motorcade crossed the Highway 520 floating bridge, but the department didn’t know whether it will be possible to bill Secret Service vehicles, tolling spokeswoman Patti Michaud said.

Obama’s Seattle-area stop was part of a three-day West Coast swing that was expected to bring in $6 million for his re-election effort.

It came as Obama lags behind Romney in fundraising. The Republican candidate last week reported more than $106 million raised in June between his campaign and various committees — $35 million more than the $71 million Obama raised.

Seattle Times staff reporters Jayme Fraser and Theodoric Meyer contributed to this story.

Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195


On Twitter @brianmrosenthal

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