In a fundraising rally at Seattle's Paramount Theatre Thursday, President Barack Obama focused largely on the economy and cited the differences between himself and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney rather than speaking at length on his recently announced support for same-sex marriage.
The thrust of Obama's speech was to emphasize his campaign theme of "moving forward" rather than "moving backwards" to past policies that included tax breaks for even the wealthiest Americans and a lack of regulations that paved the way for corporate irresponsibility and financial crisis.
At one point, the president seemed to allude to a likely Washington state referendum on the November ballot that would seek to overturn the state's newly enacted same-sex marriage law.
"Here in Washington you will have the chance to make your voice heard on the issue of making sure that everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, is treated fairly," Obama told the crowd, drawing a large round of applause and cheers. "You will have a chance to weigh in on this.
"We are a nation that treats people fairly," Obama said to cheers. "We’re not going backwards, we’re not going backwards; we’re going forward, we’re going forward.”
The president applauded the merits of a free-market economy and emphasized the importance of education in helping to develop new businesses, while also focusing on keeping jobs from being sent overseas.
Obama emphasized his foreign policy and executive accomplishments, stating that the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan would be over by 2014 and that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat. He also vowed to continue to support military veterans upon their return.
While the president has been criticized by Republicans for his spending policies, Obama said eliminating the costs associated with the war in Afghanistan would allow for infrastructure development at home, which would create jobs and bolster systems ranging from roadways and rail to broadband communications network.
The president also said that the wealthiest American should shoulder more tax responsibility — a direct response to the Bush tax cuts that the GOP has said they do not want to roll back.
Speaking directly to his female supporters, the president received one his biggest rounds of applause when he stated that he wants women to continue to be able to "make their own choices" regarding their bodies and their health, and he cited his desire for his daughters to be able to have the same opportunities as anyone else.
The president arrived in Seattle at noon; he was accompanied by Sen. Patty Murray. Gov. Christine Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee and others greeted the president upon his arrival.
The president spoke with one young girl at the airport who told him she had named her goldfish after him.
When he arrived at his first event at Ann and Bruce Blume's home in Seattle's Madrona neighborhood, he was greeted with a sign held by an infant and their mother that read: "Thank you Mr. President for standing up for my mommys!"
While it was anticipated that Obama would receive a warm reception for his newly announced support for same-sex marriage, he did not speak about same-sex marriage with the Democratic donors gathered at the Blume's home.
He did speak for a little more than 10 minutes and focused on the economy. He also contrasted his approach to higher education and job expansion to the GOP's "narrow vision" that he said was focused on "if I'm doing well, it's up to everyone else to figure out their own way."
The president stated in a TV interview Wednesday that he now supports same-sex marriage. The announcement is seen as a politically risky move nationally and puts him squarely at odds with Romney, who opposes it.
But Obama's announcement was unlikely to cause him any political grief in Democratic-friendly Seattle.
The U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey has estimated that 12.9 percent of Seattle's population is gay, lesbian or bisexual, the second-highest percentage of any major U.S. city after San Francisco.
In addition, the Democratic-controlled Washington Legislature in February passed and Gov. Gregoire signed into law a measure to allow same-sex marriage in the state. The law is scheduled to take effect June 7, although it will be put on hold if opponents manage to gather 120,000 signatures before June 6 to get a voiding referendum on the November ballot.
Obama's trip is his first visit to Washington since he spoke to Boeing Co. workers at the company's aircraft manufacturing plant in Everett on Feb. 17.
The president's appearance at the Paramount Theatre set back attendees $1,000; Dave Matthews was also scheduled to perform at the event. An extra $4,000 got ticket holders into a post-rally lunch with the president.
According to the White House, Obama will discuss issues such as student loan rates and the economy. Speculation is rife that he may make his first general public remarks about his new stance on same-sex marriage.
Washingtonians have contributed more than $3 million to Obama so far this election season. Nationally, he has raked in $191 million. That's compared with Mitt Romney’s $1.4 million in contributions from Washington state and $86 million nationally, according to the Federal Election Commission.
In the 2008 election, Obama won the state of Washington by 17 percentage points.
After the rally at the Paramount, the president will fly to Los Angeles for a star-studded fundraiser Thursday night at the California home of actor George Clooney.