SEATTLE — Barack Obama acknowledged he hasn't been a perfect president as he asked some , supporters to help him win another term and ask themselves a different question than the tradition standard an incument faces of “are you better off than you were four years ago?”
The question he wants to frame the election: “Will we be better off if we keep moving forward?”
In a half-hour speech regularly interrupted by the partisan audience, Obama sought to paint Republicans as the group that wants to go back to policies that didn't work in the last decade and Democrats as the party trying to move forward.
Some of the loudest cheers came whenever he mentioned something involving gay rights, and he worked that theme into many areas of the speech just a day after he said he personally supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry, although the issue should be decided by each state.
“If you're willing to work hard, you should be able to find a job…give your kids a chance to do better…no matter what your last name is, where you come from… no matter who you love,” he said.
Seattle was Obama's first campaign stop after giving ABC News an interview Wednesday in which he said he changed his position on same-sex marriage, and now personally supports it. He arrived at Boeing Field shortly before noon, where he was greeted by Gov. Chris Gregoire and other Democratic leaders, then whisked by motorcade to a neighborhood overlooking Lake Washington for a $17,900 per ticket fundraiser at a private home attended by about 70 people.
The press pool report filed by The Seattle Times's Jim Brunner noted that as the motorcaded arrived, a woman with an infant held a sign saying “Thank you Mr President for standing up for my Mommys.” He didn't mention gay marriage there — it was a standard campaign speech about improving the economy and opportunities for all Americans.
Outside the Paramount, the crowd that welcomed the motorcade included gay rights activists in rainbow colored boas and a pair of Democratic activists, Mary Beth Brotski and Teri McClain, wore sandwich signs, which read on the front “Thanks for Evolving on Same Sex Marriage”.
The signs had a picture of a chimpanzee on one side and Obama on the other.McClain, who said she tries to attend every Obama appearance in the Seattle area, said she created the signs this morning. The response was mostly positive, although one person did criticize her choice of picturing Obama and a chimp.
“I didn't have time to draw the whole evolutionary chart,” she said..
Neither were surprised by his announcement. “I think it was inevitable,” Brotski said.
“It's time,” McClain said. “He's all about change.
Inside the theater, a crowd estimated by fire officials as 2,000 who paid up to $1,000 per ticket heard a concert by Dave Matthews, then warm-up political speeches from Washington politicians like Sen. Patty Murray before Obama took the stage to defend his first term and take swipes at GOP nominee in waiting, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
While he complimented Romney for raising a wonderful family and achieving business success, he suggested the former CEO was misinterpetting the economy.
“The problem isn't that the American people aren't working hard enough. It's that their harder work isn't leading to higher incomes,” he said.
Romney and other Republicans were proposing economic policies that were tried by his predecessor and failed, Obama insisted: “We remember. We're not going back there, we're moving this country forward.”
Support for a free market only takes the country so far, he added, and government sometimes has to get involved, whether it's building big hydroelectric dams, the Golden Gate Bridge or creating the Internet that allowed companies like Microsoft and Google to thrive, he said.
“No Americans are fighting in Iraq. Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat. By 2014, the war in Afghanistan will be over,” he said. When that happens, he wants to take half of the money now spent on the war to reduce the deficit and spend the other half on research, education and infrastructure.
“We don't need another political fight about a woman's right to choose,” he said. “We're not going to turn back the clock … to where you could be kicked out of the United States military because of who you are and who you love.”
The election will be close, he predicted, closer than in 2008, and he expects to be hit by ads that portray Americans as “down and out” and not working. But “it's still about hope, it's still about change” he insisted.