President Barack Obama spent about four hours in Seattle on Sunday, raising money from a small group of wealthy donors in Medina before rallying a larger audience gathered at the Paramount Theater.
The entry price to the first, a brunch event at the home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, was $38,500 per couple. Tickets to the smaller event started at $100 each, with some paying as much as $1,000 or $5,000 a ticket.
After landing at Boeing Field just before noon, Obama traveled to Medina via I-5 north and the 520 floating bridge. Security was high, with police enforcing a rolling closure of the highways as the presidential motorcade passed. The huge motorcade included at least 30 motorcyle escorts, two limousines, black SUVs with security personnel and white vans carrying the traveling press corps.
At the Medina fundraiser, the president conceded the 2012 election will be "especially hard because a lot of people are discouraged" but he vowed to "keep drawing a clear contrast" between his vision and that of the Republicans, according to a report from a White House pool reporter.
"The alternative I think is an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century and that's not the kind of society that I want to bequeath to Malia and Sasha, and your children and your grandchildren," Obama told the audience of wealthy donors.
The pool reporter described the room in Shirley's home as an "airy, vast rectangular space, like entering a wing at a contemporary art museum - all white from the floors to the tall ceiling, large paintings lining the wall [and] sculptures throughout."
The reporter's account said the 65 attendees "were seated in the middle of the room at round tables with burnt orange table cloths and sunflower centerpieces."
Noteworthy attendees at the Medina event included Bill Neukom, the San Francisco Giants general manager; Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco, and Gerald Grinstein, strategic director Madrona Venture Group, previously CEO of Delta.
Later at the Paramount, the president touted his jobs bill and urged the crowd to work actively for his agenda. "I've come because I need you to help me finish what we started in 2008," he said.
He said he was proud to be a warrior for the middle class, and dismissed GOP charges that the president's tax plan amounts to class warfare: “The only class warfare I've seen is the battle waged against the middle class,” Obama said."It's about priorities."
He spoke for about a half an hour. Before leaving, he shook hands with supporters both inside and outside the theater.
A Democratic Party official told KING5's Joe Fryer that 2,000 people total were in the Paramount to hear the president speak. That total included at least six busloads of students from Highline School District.
The Robert Cray Band was scheduled to provide entertainment at the second event, and former NBA players Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens stood together at the podium to introduce the president.
Funds raised at both events will benefit the Obama Victory Fund, which goes to the Democratic National Committee and the Obama 2012 campaign.
Hours before Obama arrived at the Paramount, a hundred or so protesters had gathered at 8th and Pine, just outside the security perimeter set up by police and the Secret Service. Most of the protesters represented liberal groups advocating a number of policies, from protecting Social Security and Medicare to rejecting plans to build an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
Brian and Paula King of Lake City were there to support the agenda of the National Jobs for All Coalition, a group that wants the federal government to create a massive jobs program along the lines of what President Franklin Roosevelt created during the Depression.
"We should be urging more action to drop the unemployment rate," Brian King said.
The Kings voted for Obama in 2008 and said they plan to vote for him again in 2012. They showed up near the Paramount, they said, to represent people who want the president to do more to help the unemployed.
Max Shuman and Chris Robertson came out to urge Obama to do more to crack down on Wall Street excesses and the "corporate takeover" of government. Shuman, who lives in Capitol Hill, said he's upset that the "gap between the wealthy and the middle class and poor Americans is growing every day."
Shuman added that he's willing to vote for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012 if he thinks Obama's opponent has a better economic plan.
"I'll support the best candidate, period," he said.
He held a sign promoting the website occupyWallStreet.org -- a leftist movement that's been staging protests in Manhattan's financial district for the past week.
The protests were organized by community and labor groups including the Washington State Labor Council and the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans.
With the Seahawks hosting their home opener at 1:15 p.m. against the Arizona Cardinals, a traffic nightmare was predicted. The rolling street closures downtown and along I-5 North and 520 East did not appear to cause much of a backup while Obama traveled from Boeing Field to Medina around 12:15 p.m., but I-5 southbound was backed up north of the 520 interchange around 2 p.m. as Obama's motorcade traveled from Medina to the Paramount.
Fans gathering early outside CenturyLink Field were in prime position to see Air Force One approaching Boeing Field just before noon. The huge 747 aircraft, with its blue and white coloring and presidential seal, was easily identifiable as it passed over downtown.
President Obama held no public events during his brief visit to Seattle. I-5 South was closed briefly after 3 p.m. as the presidential motorcade moved from the Paramount back to Boeing Field, where Air Force One lifted off at 3:55 p.m.
Obama will spend the next two days in California raising money and attending a town hall event on Monday hosted by LinkedIn at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.