Sen. Barack Obama scooped up a stunning $7.8 million in just three hours of very high end fund-raising Sunday in San Francisco. A VIP dinner was $28,500-a-couple.
One $2,300-a-person event was targeting deep pockets of Asian-American voters; Obama talked about the ethnic dishes he liked to cook.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was also among those present. This is the first fund-raiser in San Francisco for Obama since April--when he got in a jam at a house party for saying people in Pennsylvania were "bitter" about their lives and that's why they turned to God and guns.
On Sunday, as San Francisco Chronicle ace political writer Carla Marinucci reports, Obama told a group, "Change is always tough, and electing me is change."
More Marinucci: "Obama campaign workers said the $7.8 million tally was a record for a political fundraiser."
And more: Obama--who attended Occidental College in southern California--said at the Asian American event that when he went to Occidental, "his first roommate was Pakistani. And in his dorm, he said with a laugh, "Indians and Pakistanis came together under one roof ... to cause havoc in the university."
"To applause, he said he became an expert at cooking dal and other ethnic dishes, though "somebody else made the naan," the trademark Indian bread."
Click below for pool reports.
POOL REPORT 1
The Fairmont Hotel was packed with Barack Obama donors Sunday night. The candidate was scheduled to spend about three hours at the hotel greeting folks, posing for photos, and giving pep talks as the campaign enters its final phase.
Stop one was a small conference room with about 60 South Asian donors who paid at least $2,300 apiece (some of the guests were presumably mega-donors also attending the dinner - see below). Obama was introduced by eBay cofounder and former state controller Steve Westly, and Kamil Hasan, a Silicon Valley high-tech investor. Also spotted in the room: Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.).
Obama recounted his days at Occidental College, where he had a Pakistani roommate, along with several Indian friends. "Indians and Pakistanis had come together under one room to cause havoc in the university. I won't go into details of some of our activities," he joked. But he told the crowd that he did learn to cook some local dishes, and he also traveled through the region. "I have an enormous personal affection for the peoples of South Asia," he said, seemingly nonplussed by all those Internet rumors about his religion and Indonesian childhood.
The crowd loved the pro-immigrant remarks that followed: "The only way we're going to move forward is to look to the future, and to recognize that you are the future," said Obama. "The future of America is built on the strength of immigrant communities who are going to come here and invest and learn and teach and create new businesses and new technologies and create linkages with these enormous emerging markets all around the world."
"The source of America's strength is there's nobody who looks like a typical American," he continued. "All of us, if we abide by our Constitution and our ideals and our values, all of us can have a piece of the American dream."
But he warned of turbulence ahead, as he battles over the next 79 days with Sen. John McCain.
"It's going to be difficult," said Obama. "Change is always tough. And electing me is change. It means that people are going to hesitate a little bit. Ba-rack O-bama. They're still getting past that name. But it's a testament to the American spirit that I'm even standing before you as the Democratic nominee."
Next Obama moved to the main ballroom, where about 350 "VIPs" had paid $28,500 per couple. He was introduced by Thomas M. Steyer, founder of Farillon Capital Management and a former Hillary Rodham Clinton donor. Reps. Barbara Lee and Anna Eshoo were present, along with Andrew Rice, Democratic Senate candidate from Oklahoma. And Clinton backer Walter Shorenstein was recognized.
Obama's remarks for the fat cats were more boilerplate, hitting the usual economic, health care, education and foreign policy themes. He mainly sought to reassure that he knew what was coming from the McCain camp - and wouldn't respond meekly, like some of his Democratic predecessors.
"We know the change that has to come. And we also know that the American people are desperate for change. They understand the disaster of these last eight years. But we also know that change is always tough. Even when people are having a tough time, sometimes the devil you know may be preferable to the unknown. We're going to have to work really hard over the next 79 days," Obama said.
"Democrats because we've burned in the last few elections, get nervous and skittish right around this time. They say, oh no, here the Republicans come - they're so mean and they're going to be doing all these things. Obama is a funny name and who knows what they're going to do," he said, to nervous laughter around the room.
"So keep your stress to a minimum," he instructed them.
POOL REPORT 2
So in three hours, Obama raised a whopping $7.8 million.
At the third and final event of the blockbuster evening, Obama again vowed to break the Democratic losing streak by answering Republican charges aggressively and enlisting the American people in his cause.
"I will win. Don't worry about that," he said to the crowd of about 1,300.
The candidate was particularly fired up in this speech, confident and assertive, having finally shaken off the vacation dust. He was warmly received by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the hometown gal was neutral during the primary, but wasn't shy about her Obama affection tonight, calling him "a leader that God has blessed us with at this time."
Obama spoke at length about the difficulties that many Americans were facing (beyond these four walls at least), hitting similar points from his "bitter" speech, but without the guns and God landmines.
"Now, you want to win. And saying it doesn't make it so," he told the crowd. "It would be nice to think that after eight years of economic disaster, after eight years of bungled foreign policy, of being engaged in a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, that cost us a trillion dollars and thousands of lives, that people would say, let's toss the bums out. Toss the bums out, we're starting from scratch, we're starting over. This is not working."
"So I understand why a lot of folks are saying, this should just happen. Why are we having to run all these television commercials? Why do we have to raise all this money? Just read the papers. These are the knuckleheads who have been in charge. Throw 'em out. But American politics aren't that simple."
"The fact of the matter is, at a certain point, when government has not been serving the people for this long, people get cynical. They tune out. And they start saying to themselves, a plague on both your houses. They are willing to consume negative information more frequently than positive information, for good reason. They've seen how promises haven't been kept."
Things could get ugly in the coming weeks, he warned.
"They've got a whole machinery that they're cranking out," Obama continued. "They've got a book about me, that just kind of sprung full bore out of this guy's head."
"John McCain, all he wants to do is talk about me. They know they can't win on the issues. So what they'll do is they'll try to scare people. He's risky. He's risky. We're not sure."
It's an old playbook, he continued, but Obama said, it's not going to work this time. "Not only do you have a candidate who doesn't take any guff. Not only do you have a candidate who will hit back swiftly and forcefully and truthfully.But you've also got American people who are rising up all over the country and saying, enough is enough."