Obama raises nearly $2 million in Austin visit

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on May 10, 2011 at 6:55 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 10 at 10:48 PM

AUSTIN — As people lined up for one of the two Austin fundraisers President Obama attended on Tuesday evening, they made it clear why he's here for the second time in less than a year.

Debbie Lewis came from Dallas to attend one event. "He is doing what he can to create jobs and help fix our economy," she said.

Another Obama supporter in line was Susan Morrison of Austin. "I think it's important that we support our president, especially in these troubled times that our nation is having," she said.

But the trouble the president faces in Texas is reflected in a Texas Tribune/UT poll conducted in February, showing 54 percent of voters disapproving or strongly disapproving of his performance, with 35 percent approving.

Yet President Obama told News 8 in an exclusive interview last month he thinks Texas is in play for the 2012 election. "I never write off states, and I love Texas," he said.

The White House believes immigration reform is good policy for improving the economy and security, as well as a pathway to citizenship for in this country illegally. But it's also good politics in attracting Hispanic voters, even if the president's chances in Texas are slim.

"A short-term goal for Obama in Texas is four new congressional seats and winning back two we lost in South Texas last year," said Austin-based political consultant Jason Stanford. "If we can do that, he's gotten his money's worth out of Texas."

However, Chris Elam, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, says Republicans are under no illusion that Obama is trying to win Texas next year.

"He's here to raise funds to help fund Democratic campaigns and his own reelection campaign next year and other states across the nation," Elam said. "The more Democratic dollars he wishes to take out of here in Austin, we'll happily let him do it."

The president made a full-blown campaign speech Monday night trying to rally the troops in the Capital City, speaking for spoke for 23 minutes to hundreds of supporters at  the Moody Theater at the W Hotel.

It was one of two fund raising events in which he raised close to $2 million for his 2012 campaign, according to a Democratic source.

"What makes America great is not just the scale of our skyscrapers, the might of our military, the size of our GDP, but also what makes us great is the character of our people,” Obama said.

The president revived themes of unity from his 2008 campaign and with the help of someone in the crowd capitalized on recent his high-profile military success in Pakistan.
 
"Osama bin Laden will never again threaten the security of the United States of America,” Obama said.
 
While the president didn't mention Texas politics specifically, he couldn't resist a subtle poke at Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
 
“We've raised standards for teachers and schools by launching something called 'Race for the Top,'” Obama said.
 
The state initially passed up on those education funds, saying they came with too many strings attached.

Central Texans will likely see the president again as 2012 approaches.
 
"I intend to drop by a few more times in this campaign,” he promised.

KVUE reporter Martin Bartlett contributed to this report.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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