Obama: We'll keep fighting for change

January 12, 2012 4:44:10 AM PST
President Barack Obama returned home to Chicago Wednesday for a series of re-election fundraisers.

Air Force One landed at O'Hare Airport at approximately 4:20 p.m. Bill Daley, the brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who resigned as White House chief of staff, arrived with Mr. Obama. Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett was also with him.

Home may be where the heart is, but it's also where the money is for President Obama. This was his first trip to Chicago of the new year, and he planned to shake the money tree.

Mr. Obama attended three events, including a concert featuring R&B soul singer Janelle Monae on the UIC campus for approximately 500 supporters. That event was open to members of the news media, but two more exclusive fundraisers later in the evening were private.

Supporters attending the UIC event bought tickets starting at $44 each. The other private events, which were held at two different homes in Lincoln Park and Hyde Park, were more pricey -- ranging from $7,500 to $35,800 per couple.

"You have to send a message that we will keep pushing and fighting for the change that we believe in," Obama told supporters.

Obama was scheduled to leave O'Hare on Air Force One around 10:30 p.m. The president's six hours in Chicago was expected to raise nearly $2 million.

Obama's campaign brought in more than $150 million through last September. However, Democrats say they will need more to compete with Republican fundraising.

Not everyone was enthused by the president's appearance. About 100 protesters gathered outside the UIC forum while Republicans offered their own rebuttal.

"Two million fewer people working, $5 trillion in additional debt, your home's worth less, you're paying more for gas, we're overregulated. I think that's going to be the answer to when President Obama says things are better. They simply aren't better," said Pat Brady, Illinois Republican Party chairman.

Visit comes after book on Obamas

The timing of his visit to Chicago may not have been the most comfortable for the president. It came as first lady Michelle Obama, for the first time, responded to a new book written by a New York Times reporter about the couple's marriage and their time in the White House. The author describes tension between Mrs. Obama and some of her husband's aides, specifically the president's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

"Rahm and Amy, his wife, are some of our dearest friends. Rahm and I have never had cross words. Never," Mrs. Obama told CBS News.

Mrs. Obama also said she rarely visits the West Wing-- let alone takes part in policy debates or decisions.

"I don't have conversations with my husband's staff. I don't go to meetings. Our staffs work together really well," she said.

Rahm Emanuel said his relationship with the Obamas remains strong.

The visit also came two days after Bill Daley's resignation as White House chief of staff. Daley survived just one year in the job and leaves as the president continues to struggle with unemployment, approval ratings, and Congress.

In fact, Wednesday morning, the president was still in Washington convening a White House forum he hopes will encourage the private sector to pick up hiring.

White House officials said Daley will be involved in Obama's re-election campaign and serve as co-chair when Obama returns to Chicago at the end of the month.

Mayor Emanuel said no one should blame Bill Daley for burnout.

"Historically, the modern chief of staff spends 18 months in the job. It's a grinding job," he said.

Obama re-election campaign's HQ in Chicago

Obama is breaking with the tradition of past incumbent presidents by not headquartering his re-election campaign in Washington. Instead, he's doing it right here in Chicago.

While the Republicans hop from state to state, Barack Obama's campaign nerve center downtown is preparing for the post-primary fight.

From the Prudential Building, 300 people tackle everything from fundraising to crafting ad campaigns customized to swing voters. Key states like Ohio and Florida have dedicated teams.

"Many of these areas, we call them pods, are divided into regions," said said Ben LaBolt, Obama national campaign spokesman.

Illinois volunteers have made more than 260,000 phone calls soliciting support.

"Millions of Americans from across this country are joining this campaign. We are going to top what we did in 2008. We're going to build the largest grassroots campaign in history," said LaBolt.

Five years ago this week, Obama hadn't even formally declared he wanted the presidency. Today, he is the incumbent with 300 people in this office alone working to get him re-elected.

"We've had twice the amount of donors to this campaign as we did in 2007, they're coming in twice as quickly," said LaBolt.

When asked if it's hard to get back the excitement that existed in 2008,LaBolt said, "It's back already."