President Obama is speaking right now at the California Science Center, joined by Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
The big purpose of the event is to give a boost to Barbara Boxer’s Senate re-election campaign, as she faces the race of her career against potential GOP challengers Carly Fiorina, Tom Campbell or Chuck Devore.
According to Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who posted this photo on Twitter, Obama cited Boxer’s support for hybrids and electric cars and called her a “subcompact model, with an inexhaustible source of energy.”
Obama was speaking at the first of three fund-raisers on Monday night, starting with a reception before about 200 people, according to a pool report. The reception was priced at $2,500 per person.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do. Our work is not yet done,” Obama said. “And because some of the things that we did were not popular, we’re going to have a tough political fight coming up …Barbara is going to have a tough race.”
“It’s tough being an incumbent. And it’s even tougher when you’ve got the other side of the aisle, which helped cause the mess…distorting the records of [people like] Barbara Boxer.”
Obama drew loud cheers when he talked about repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and passing health care reform.
He vowed a fight when it came to financial regulatory reform, noting that to stick to the status quo “makes absolutely no sense.”
“It turns out Mitch McConnell thinks differently,” he said. While he said that the “problems are big enough that Democrats and Republicans have to work together, he said that he and Boxer would not “compromise our principles” in order to “create some false sense of peace.”
Obama was to appear later at a general reception priced at $250-per-person and at a dinner at the Natural History Museum priced at $17,600 per person. All of the events are sold out. About 1,400 people were expected at the California Science Center events, and 175 people at the dinner.
The scene outside isn’t as friendly as in: One attendee says that a protesting “choir” was singing “Obama like Hitler.”
Update: According to Garcetti, at the larger event, held in a hangar-like space at the Science Center, someone shouted repeatedly “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!,” and Obama said he agrees but that he need not holler. Then, the crowd “goes wild,” Garcetti writes. Another woman disrupted Obama, who noted that Boxer didn’t even vote for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Key Obama quote, also via Garcetti: “After driving us in to the ditch, [Republicans] are standing by, not helping to pull us out of the ditch, saying there’s a scratch there.”
Another update: According to the pool report, Obama’s speech was halted at one point by the protesters calling for an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. They were from the group GetEQUAL, and also were protesting outside the fund-raiser.
“What about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” one protester shouted.
Obama yelled back, “We’re going to do that.”
He kept talking, raising his voice to speak over the protesters. The crowd then went into chants of “Yes, we can!”
But another protester kept yelling, “It’s time for equality for all Americans!” And Obama said, “Can I just say again Barbara and I are supportive of repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?'” As the protester kept yelling, Obama’s remarks came to a halt, and the crowd once again shouted, “Yes, we can!”
After he regained control, Obama cited the $200 billion in tax cuts in the stimulus bill, saying, “Look what we’ve been for and what the other side’s been against. For example, tax cuts.”
He once again brought up Mitch McConnell, and the Senate Minority Leader’s recent visit to Wall Street. Obama said, “I don’t know exactly what was discussed. All I can tell you is when he came back, he promptly announced he would oppose financial regulatory reform.”
Another Update II: The org GetEQUAL put out a statement identifying the protesters as David John Fleck, Dan Fotou, Laura Kanter, Zoe Nicholson, and Michelle Wright, and said they were escorted out of the reception by security officers, right. Fotou said in a statement, “President Obama has been AWOL on DADT. We had to reminded him of the promises he made to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community during his campaign and several times during his Presidency – that DADT will be repealed because, as he’s stated, ‘it’s the right thing to do.’”
The group was involved in the protest outside the White House last month, when Lt. Dan Choi was arrested after chaining himself to a gate. Choi also led a protest outside Obama’s fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton last May.
Update III: At the dinner, held amidst the Natural History Museum’s animal exhibits, Barbara Boxer underscored how difficult her race is. “I’m in a very, very tough race … these are very, very tough times. You understand that. Leaders are tested in tough times. And that is appropriate. At the end of the day people want someone who is in their corner.”
She also made light of claims that health care reform would lead to death panels. “Now why would I ever pull the plug on granny? I am granny.”
“I believe that people are waking up to this and we will match the tea party excitement — cup by cup by cup. We have to do it.”
Once again, Obama cited immigration reform and repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, telling those gathered that Boxer would “help us get this stuff done.”
But he said that “you can’t take for granted” that the same level of energy that helped sweep him into office in 2008 will continue this year.
“You remember 2008 – that was fun. Because it was so obivous that the course we were on wasn’t working and everything felt fresh and new. And now, we’ve gone through a year and a half of tough fits. And some folks are impatient, some folks didn’t realize how long this was going to take.”
Photo from GetEQUAL.