'We Can't Wait' to Fundraise: Obama Tries to Revive That 2008 Feeling

The past couple of months have seen a frenzied push of “We Can’t Wait” initiatives from the White House, whether it’s launching 15 new Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation or expanding government purchases of biobased products.

Now, President Obama can’t wait to fundraise.

Last week at this time, the president was giving a standard post-jobs-report speech touting the 8.3 percent unemployment rate at a Virginia Rolls-Royce Crosspointe facility.

Then, he hopped on a plane for Houston to plow through two campaign events that raked in up to $35,800 a head — and was back in Washington that evening.

After this week of welcoming British Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House, entertaining the Tory at a basketball game in Ohio and ripping Republicans’ energy plans in Maryland, Obama took an entire workday Friday to hit the campaign trail.

After hopping on the phone to a fuming Hamid Karzai, Obama’s motorcade was off and running to Andrews Air Force Base shortly after 10 a.m. With senior adviser Valerie Jarrett at his side, the president took off in Air Force One bound for Chicago.

“I can assure you that his day will be full of the execution of his responsibilities as president, even as he is engaging in some of these campaign events,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on the plane.

The crowd at the Palmer House Hilton was just finishing up a screening of The Road We’ve Traveled, Obama’s new 17-minute campaign film with a $345,00 price tag directed by Davis Guggenheim and narrated by Tom Hanks. “Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt had so much fallen on the shoulders of one president,” Hanks says in the propaganda reel.

And as if coming full circle, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — Obama’s former chief of staff — was on hand for the festivities. “I don’t know how he’s doing, but he seems to have a little bit of energy,” Obama quipped in his remarks.

Tickets to this first fundraiser started at $2,500. And shortly after noon Central time, under the ballroom’s crystal chandeliers, the president launched into his first campaign speech of the day — the first of his five fundraising events Friday.

“Now, you might have noticed that we have some guests in Illinois this week. Apparently, things haven’t quite wrapped up on the other side,” Obama said to laughs from the audience.

“And my message to all the candidates is, ‘Welcome to the Land of Lincoln’ — because I’m thinking maybe some Lincoln will rub off on them while they are here,” he quipped.

He noted Abraham Lincoln’s launching of the transcontinental railroad and creating the National Academy of Sciences.

“Lincoln, the first Republican president, knew that if we as a nation through our federal government didn’t act to facilitate these things, then they likely wouldn’t happen, and as a result, we’d all be worse off,” Obama said.

He swung into reviving his change mantra from 2008, claiming that he had made it happen in the form of the auto bailout, raising fuel-efficiency standards, reforming student loans, healthcare reform, ending the war in Iraq, and making sure “that Wall Street is playing by the rules, stabilizing our economy.” He also took credit for ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays serving openly in the military.

“Now, the question is, what happens next?” Obama asked. “None of this has been easy. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

He charged that Republicans wanted to turn back to failed policies, let corporations run amuck, let the strongest survive — and attempted to seize to his advantage the argument being used against his re-election, that this is an especially critical election for the times.

“This is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time, because we are in a make-or-break moment, not only for the middle class in this country but everybody who is fighting to get into the middle class,” Obama said. “That’s what’s at stake. And so over the coming months we’re going to have a great debate about whose vision will deliver for the American people.”

Launching into his fairness doctrine and the Buffett Rule, the president proceeded to pack into this address all of the themes on which he’s building his re-election effort, even name-dropping Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and FDR in addition to Abe. All that was missing was the Osama bin Laden reference.

“As much as 2008 was exciting, and as much as all of us I think saw that night at Grant Park as the culmination of something, it was actually just the beginning of what we’re fighting for,” Obama said. “That’s what 2012 is about.”

Seeing as how this speech could have been substituted for his nomination acceptance address at Invesco Field in Denver, though, it looks as if he’s trying early — and hard — to regain that 2008 fervor.

Following his address, the president went into a closed roundtable discussion with a more select group of 60 supporters who shelled out at least $10,000 each.

Obama hopped back on Air Force One just before 3 p.m. Central time, en route to the next stop in Atlanta.

Here, the president was to meet with donors at a private residence before delivering remarks at a Tyler Perry Studios event with Cee Lo performing. He’ll wrap up the evening with another donor event at a private home before flying back to Washington.

The White House announced late Friday afternoon that Obama will spend next Wednesday and Thursday in Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Ohio (swing!) “to highlight his Administration’s all of the above energy strategy, including his focus on continuing to expand responsible oil and gas development, increasing the fuel economy of the vehicles we drive which will save families money at the pump, supporting renewable energy sources, and investing in infrastructure and research and development, all of which play a central role in increasing our nation’s energy security.”

That’s Cushing, Okla., where the southern leg of Keystone XL will run to the Gulf of Mexico, “which will help address the bottleneck of oil that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production in the Midwest,” according to the White House. The pipeline he was against before he was for (in part).

In other words, a full-court press against Obama’s still-existing vulnerability with high gas prices and Keystone, trying to shore up his defenses while fattening his ever-expanding war chest.