President Obama continued his whirlwind tour of Manhattan Monday at a fundraiser cohosted by singer Ricky Martin and campaigned on the “fundamental difference” between himself and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“We’ve got a very clear contrast this time,” said Obama, speaking at the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea in the late afternoon. “John McCain believed in climate change and believed in immigration reform.” By comparison, without naming Romney, Obama mentioned “a candidate who said he’d basically rubber-stamp a Republican Congress who wants us to go backwards and not forwards on a whole range of issues.”
“We’ve just got a completely different vision of how America is succeeding,” said Obama. “And it’s rooted in fact. And it’s rooted in history.”
“When everybody’s got a shot, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, we all do better,” he said. “And that’s what’s at stake in this election. Those are the contrasting visions.”
The fundraiser, geared toward LGBT and Latino voters, was hosted by Martin, the Futuro Fund, and the Obama for America LGBT Leadership Council, the campaign’s constituent group. It marked the first time the president has addressed an event organized by the council since he announced last week that he personally supports marriage equality.
During the speech, which lasted about 20 minutes, Obama explicitly positioned marriage equality within his overarching argument that “all of us are equal in terms of dignity and in terms of respect.” He did not talk about same-sex marriage in a keynote address earlier this afternoon at Barnard College, but he did mention “gay rights" in general. That closely watched address focused on the concerns of women and young people.
"The announcement I made last week about my views on marriage equality ... same principle," said Obama at the fund-raiser. "The basic idea, I want everybody treated fairly in this country. We have never gone wrong when we expanded rights and responsibilities for everybody. That doesn't weaken families, that strengthens families."
Obama said that “everything we do,” from “Wall Street reform” to “repealing DOMA,” is motivated by that principle of fairness, and he suggested that voters approve. A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that 52% of Americans said that Obama’s expression of support for marriage equality did not affect their opinion of him.
"It's been said that this election is going to be about values, and I absolutely agree,” he said. “It's about economic values we have, about the values that I believe are what makes America so special: the idea that everybody gets a fair shot, everybody gets their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.”
"And the good news is, I think the American people are on our side in this," he said.
The president acknowledged that his reelection bid would be “tough” and “tight,” particularly because of ongoing economic sluggishness and “special interests and these super PACs” that would “make this a very close race.”
“This is going to be a challenging race, but we can win, as long as all of you are activated,” said Obama in conclusion to strong applause. “I still believe in you. I hope you still believe in me.”
According to ABC News, Obama was scheduled to conclude his day in the city with a $35,800-per-head dinner at the home of Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group, the nation's largest private equity firm.
Martin introduced Obama with brief remarks. He praised the president for his announcement about marriage equality, and said that in his travels since 2009, he has found that “America is on another level” in the world’s eyes.
“We admire his courage, like the courage he shared last week in affirming his belief in marriage equality,” said Martin, who came out in 2010. The Puerto Rican-born entertainer also hailed the president’s foreign policy and work for “equal opportunity for the Latino community” before urging the crowd to help elect Obama again.
According to a survey released last month by the National Council of La Raza, some 54% of Hispanics support marriage equality. That percentage represents slightly more than the overall American support of 53% found in a Gallup poll last week.
For his part, Obama seemed to make a friendly dig at his host, who is now starring on Broadway.
“I want to thank Ricky Martin,” he said. “Those of you who haven’t caught Evita yet, go out there, I’m sure there are tickets still available."
Other guests included Eva Longoria of ABC’s recently departed Desperate Housewives and New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. Obama acknowledged the state's top prosecutor from the podium as “outstanding.” The audience also included senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and Jay Carney, the White House press secretary.
The event drew 200 people, according to an estimate provided by a campaign spokeswoman. Tickets started at $5,000, going up to $35,800 for a private reception and photo op with the president. The spokeswoman said the campaign does not comment on total amounts raised from fundraising events.
A larger crowd is expected to greet Obama next month in Los Angeles, where the LGBT Leadership Council will host a gala specifically geared toward gay supporters on June 6. Dana Perlman, a council cochair who is organizing the event, said that no venue had been selected yet, but the attendance would be on par with last June’s gala in New York City. That event drew about 600 supporters with tickets starting at $1,250.
“The response is still very strong,” said Perlman, who reported an increase in buzz last week after the president made his announcement. “We’ve been very pleased with the reaction.”
Watch the video report from CBS News.