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President Barack Obama, seeking to raise $2 million in campaign funds in Vermont and Maine, told supporters that there may be more at stake in the U.S. election this year than in his victorious run to the White House in 2008.
“In 2008 I was running against a candidate who believed in climate change, believed in immigration, believed in the notion of reducing deficits in a balanced way,” the president said to about 100 contributors at a luncheon in Burlington, Vermont, the first of four events yesterday in two states he won by wide margins in 2008.
“We had some profound disagreements, but the Republican candidate for president understood that some of these challenges required compromise,” Obama said, referring to Senator John McCain. Now, he said, Republicans have a “fundamentally different vision of America.”
Obama has been increasing his fundraising and campaign appearances as he turns more directly to his re-election campaign and as the Republican nomination race enters its final stages. Obama is running with the nation’s unemployment rate stuck at about 8 percent or higher since he took office and the threat of higher oil prices stifling the recovery.
Obama raised $45 million for his campaign in February compared with $11.5 million for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.
In seeking to rev up enthusiasm among his supporters, Obama cited victories during his first term, including passage of the health-care law that was the focus of Supreme Court arguments this week. The remarks on the health-care overhaul marked the president’s first on the issue this week.
Obama also outlined his future agenda, citing a push for a minimum tax on individuals who make $1 million or more annually, an initiative named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
The Senate is due to vote on the Buffett rule in two weeks. It would require a minimum 30 percent tax rate for the highest U.S. earners. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projects it would raise $47 billion over the next decade. Republicans, who have enough votes to block the legislation, have said they oppose it.
Obama linked the tax to his re-election campaign theme that the U.S. must cut its budget deficit without jeopardizing education and research programs.
“If you make more than a million dollars a year, I don’t mean that you have a million dollars; I mean every year they’re making more than a million dollars, you should not pay a tax rate that’s lower than your secretary,” he told approximately 1,800 people at Southern Maine Community College. “This is not class warfare, this is not class envy, this is just basic math.”
Obama also jabbed at the Republicans running for president while at the University of Vermont in Burlington. He cited the debate in the primary battle among Romney, former Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and said Abraham Lincoln “couldn’t win the nomination.”
Obama was making his first trip to Vermont since taking office. He won the state by 37 percentage points in the 2008 election. Yesterday marked his third visit to Maine, which he won by 18 percentage points in 2008.
Vermont residents have made more per-capita contributions to Obama’s re-election campaign than residents in any other state, even his home state of Illinois, according to a review by the Burlington Free Press.
The president’s stop in Vermont reduces to seven the number of U.S. states that Obama has yet to visit since taking office: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Idaho, Utah, Arkansas and South Carolina. None of these states voted for Obama in his 2008 presidential race against McCain.
Obama has made two trips to Maine since taking office, including a July 2010 family vacation to Acadia National Park.
Tickets for the first event started at $7,500 per person and went for as much as $35,800, according to the campaign. In Portland, Obama spoke to approximately 1,800 people at Southern Maine Community College. Tickets for those events went for $44 to $100.
At a dinner at the Portland Museum of Art, Obama told about 130 supporters seated around square tables adjacent to an Edgar Degas exhibition that, while the economy is improving, more must be done to invest in research, education and energy independence.
“The task before us still looms large and the other side doesn’t have answers to these questions,” he said at the final fundraiser of the day. “You don’t see them debating how we improve our education system; you don’t see them engaging, in any serious way, about how we’re going to retrain our workers. There’s not a conversation about how we restore manufacturing in this country.”
Obama said Republican presidential candidates have “one message,” which is cutting taxes “so that by every objective measure our deficit is worse.” Ticket prices started at $5,000 per person.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Portland, Maine at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at email@example.com