After Air Force One landed at O'Hare around 5 p.m., Obama was ferried to a McCormick Place parking lot. His motorcade then departed for N9NE, a West Loop restaurant where longtime friends and supporters paid between $5,000 and $15,000 to attend.
As the president attended another event at MK in River North where donors paid $35,800 a plate, entertainers and Chicago Bulls players warmed up the waiting crowd at a Navy Pier rally. There the president outlined his 2012 re-election themes before a crowd of over 2,000 supporters who paid $100 to enter.
"The economy is growing again. We are creating jobs again. Over the last four months, we have seen the largest drop in unemployment since 1984," he said as the room cheered.
Unlike previous sitting presidents, Obama will headquarter his re-election effort outside of Washington in Chicago's historic Prudential Building. Political science professor Bob Starks says it's a calculated political move for the president to base his operations in Chicago.
"It's the center of the Midwest and the Midwestern states are crucial in the sweepstakes for the Electoral College," said Starks.
Republicans, who will not have a president nominee for another 16 months, are not worried about the incumbent's campaign head start.
"Even as unemployment dips a little bit, that's not going to save a presidency that hasn't delivered on what it has promised," said Lee Roupas, Cook County Republican Party.
Protesters gathered outside Navy Pier before the president spoke. They said the Obama administration has expanded wars begun under President Bush and they demanded an end to American involvement in all those wars. They also called on the president to refuse to cut the budget and to increase taxes on wealthy Americans.
The president was scheduled to spend Thursday night at his Hyde Park home.