President Obama raised money for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s re-election campaign and criticized Republicans as “down on America” during a Friday fundraising swing through Seattle.
President Obama pilloried Republicans as anti-immigrant, anti-science and “down on America” during a brief swing through Seattle on Friday.
The president was in town for a pair of political fundraisers, including a dinnertime event to benefit the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
Air Force One touched down just after 3:30 p.m. at Boeing Field, where Obama was greeted by Gov. Jay Inslee and others.
After a brief stop at a rope line to greet onlookers and hold a baby, the president got in a motorcade headed to the Westin Seattle Hotel. Traffic was halted as Interstate 5 and some downtown streets were cleared to make way.
Taking the stage at the Westin to an ovation and shouts of “We love you,” Obama hailed Murray as a key ally in Congress. Noting she’d started out in politics as a mom in tennis shoes, “All these years later, that’s still who she is,” he said. “She’s just helped a whole lot of people.”
The president argued his administration has made progress on key issues, citing job creation, less dependence on foreign oil and the end of policies such as “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which had barred openly gay soldiers from serving in the military.
“Which makes you wonder, why are all these Republican politicians so down on America?” Obama said, drawing laughs. “I mean, I know it’s political season, but listening to them is kind of depressing.”
He accused Republicans of hearkening back to 2008, as if things were better before he took office in the midst of the Great Recession. “To hear them tell it, those were the good old days, the golden years, and then me and Patty — we messed it up!”
Obama mocked Republicans for denial of climate change, saying if 99 percent of doctors told you you had diabetes, “You wouldn’t call it a hoax.”
“And you’ve got the chair of the Energy and Environment Committee in the Senate holding up a snowball during winter and saying, ‘See — it isn’t happening,’ ” he said. “No, it’s a problem — you guys are laughing.”
The president had spent the morning visiting privately with families of victims of the Roseburg, Ore., shooting rampage that left nine dead last week.
At the Westin, he got a loud standing ovation when he briefly addressed gun violence, lamenting the repeated news of mass shootings at schools. “It is not normal,” he said. “It’s a choice we make, and it is a choice we can change. There are ways to protect our children and protect our rights.”
He criticized Republicans, including presidential candidate Donald Trump, for stoking anti-immigrant sentiment, asking how many in the crowd had Italian or Irish heritage, and noting that critics used to say the same things about those groups.
The president’s speech ended shortly before 6:30 p.m. with an exhortation to the crowd to fight for Democratic values and for Murray’s re-election.
Before the Murray fundraiser, Obama spoke to a smaller group of about 30 donors, who paid up to $33,400 per person to get up close to the president. The roundtable event raised money for the Democratic National Committee and was hosted by Tom Campion, who founded the youth-clothing chain Zumiez, and his wife, Sonya.
Reporters were not allowed into the roundtable and were also barred from most of Murray’s own speech at her fundraiser. After being briefly let in while Murray was speaking, reporters were then abruptly hustled out of the room. White House aides cited a policy of allowing media to cover only the president’s remarks at such events.
After wrapping up the Westin fundraising, Obama returned to Boeing Field and flew off before 7 p.m. for more political events scheduled in San Francisco, including a Saturday concert featuring rapper Kanye West, according to media reports.
Murray, a Democrat who is seeking a fifth term next year, has counted on Obama’s fundraising help before. He headlined events for her last re-election campaign in 2010, when she defeated former state senator and two-time gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi.
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Murray’s 2016 re-election campaign has raised $6.7 million through June, as of the latest Federal Election Commission reports. Friday’s Westin fundraiser was sold out, with more than 1,400 paying at least $250 to get in. The event was expected to raise at least $500,000.
The president’s visit on Murray’s behalf drew criticism from her Republican challenger, former King County Councilmember and former state GOP Chairman Chris Vance.
In a statement Friday, Vance said Obama’s visit shows that Democrats are worried about Murray’s re-election prospects.
But Republicans face an uphill slog trying to defeat Murray. Democrats have held both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats since Maria Cantwell defeated Slade Gorton in 2000.