President Obama dropped into Seattle Tuesday afternoon for a quick visit to headline two Democratic fundraisers.
Obama touched down at Boeing Field shortly after 3 p.m. and was greeted by officials including Gov. Jay Inslee, who rode with Obama in the presidential motorcade to brief the president on the state’s record-setting wildfires.
The Seattle visit started a three-day West Coast trip, where he’ll also visit San Francisco and Los Angeles and plans to attend at least five fundraising events, less than four months ahead of midterm elections that could change Washington’s balance of power.
Before leaving Boeing Field, Obama shook hands with a few of the 50 spectators lined up along the tarmac to witness his arrival.
Cathy and Ross Gallagher of Shelton were among the first to shake hands with the president. Their son works at Boeing Field.
“There were butterflies in my stomach,” said Cathy, 59.
Moving down the line, Obama spotted a baby girl in pink fleece and pink sneakers. Ava Cunnington, 11 months, didn’t flinch as the president kissed and hugged her.
“He said to her, ‘You look a little tired,'” Ava’s father, Jake Cunnington, 31, of Kirkland recalled. “And the president said, ‘I’m a little tired myself.'”
The motorcade zipped to Obama’s first fundraiser, a reception to benefit the Democratic National Committee at the Seattle waterfront home of Bruce and Ann Blume, who have been major Democratic donors.
About 250 people paid $500 to $20,000 to attend the event, according to a DNC official.
Guests sipped wine under a large white canopy on the mansion’s east lawn, near stone terraces and a pool. Bruce Springsteens Glory Days blared on the stereo.
Gov. Jay Inslee spoke first, lauding Obama for signing an executive order this week banning discrimination against gays and lesbians as federal contractors, a move Inslee compared with the Civil Rights Act.
“You’ve got a Democratic president who is bending the arc of the moral universe forward,” Inslee said.
Inslee also praised Obama’s executive order restricting emissions at coal fired power plants, saying it might give his children a chance to not have pine forests burn down, to have oysters and eat salmon.
With a nod to state politics, Inslee said, “I’ve got the same problems Barack Obama has, OK?”
Spotted in the crowd were Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and state Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens.
Obama talked about the fires ravaging North Central Washington this past week. He noted the risks that firefighters and others take and said he called to express condolences to the widow of a retired state trooper who died of a heart attack battling the Carlton Complex fire near Pateros, Okanogan County.
The president said he talked with federal emergency management officials about providing aid to restore power in the fires areas, and said more aid may be forthcoming.
“I just want to make sure that everybody knows that we are going to be thinking about and then helping people who are being severely affected by these fires,” he said.
Turning to the economy, Obama talked about inheriting a bad economic crisis and the gains that have been made in recent years – 52 months of job growth and the lowest unemployment since 2007.
Despite those advances, Obama said, people remain nervous, partly due to the challenges overseas, including war in Ukraine and Syria, tensions with Russia, and the Israel-Gaza conflict.
“Part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding, and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order,” he said.
Congress also feels broken to people, Obama said, which leads to cynicism.
He noted that he signed a bill on Tuesday. “It was shocking,” he said to laughter.
He called on Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the immigration system and raise the federal minimum wage.
He also appealed to donors to help him change Congress.
“The problem is not the Republican Party per se,” he said. “The problem is this particular group right now that has kind of gone off the rails.”
After the Seattle fundraiser, Obama crossed Lake Washington to the Hunts Point home of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal and his wife, Jan.
The Sinegal event, which was closed to the media, was billed as a $25,000-per-person fundraising dinner for Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC trying to keep Democrats in power in the U.S. Senate.
Obama returned to Boeing Field about 7:30 p.m. and headed to San Francisco, while he’ll spend the night.
Republicans decried Obama’s visit, coming amid world tensions in Russia and the Middle East and the massive wildfires across the mountains.
“Instead of fundraising, the president should fly to Eastern Washington and walk on the scorched ground of Okanogan and Chelan counties where devastating fires have destroyed millions of acres, causing tragic loss of life, homes, livestock, and wildlife,” state Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison said in a statement.
“The president should show support for the needs of real people and stop this fundraising fiddling while our state burns,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.