Entries in Philadelphia (8)


Obama Tells Supporters to ‘Pay Attention’ to the GOP

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- President Obama concluded a day of fundraising across two states by telling supporters to “pay attention” to what Republican rivals were offering as contrasts to his policies.

“I am telling you, I want you all to pay attention over the next five months and see if they’re offering a single thing that they did not try when they were in charge, because you won’t see it,” he said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, Obama reminded the crowd of the last Democrat to reside in the White House, Bill Clinton.  It was the last time the federal government maintained a budget surplus.

"By the time I got into office, we had a $1 trillion deficit because of tax cuts that weren’t paid for, two wars that weren’t paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for,” he said.

“We had baked into the cake structural deficits that were made even worse by the financial crisis,” Obama then said of George W. Bush.

The president tried to draw a parallel with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s support of a $5 trillion tax cut, saying he could guess at how it would work.

“Either it’s not paid for, in which case, that’s $5 trillion that’s piled on top of the debt we already have, passed onto the next generation,” Obama began.  “Or it’s going to come from middle-class families.”

About 500 donors crammed under the central rotunda of the Franklin Institute to hear the president.  The building is a learning center named for hometown hero Benjamin Franklin.

Obama invoked the ingenuity of the founding fathers to paint a picture of American innovation, suggesting that in a second term he would sharpen efforts to push infrastructure, high technology and environmental projects.

“That’s how we became an economic superpower,” he said.  “So the notion that we would now shortchange our investments in science and basic research, the possible cures for cancer or Alzheimer’s, or the clean energy that can make sure that we’re doing something about climate change and saving money for families -- that’s not the answer.”

Touting the end of the war in Iraq and progress on gay rights, Obama’s statements to the donors were largely in sync with a script he has been using for months.

The appearance in Philadelphia was split into three separate fundraising events that should pull in north of $1.8 million.  While tickets for the rotunda remarks started at $250 a piece, to attend a dinner reception afterwards 75 supporters would donate at least $10,000.  The bulk of the funds came from a small roundtable discussion of 25 people, paying $40,000 a chair.

Combined with earlier fundraising events in Baltimore, the Obama Victory Fund is expected to raise at least $3.6 million by night’s end, according to the campaign.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama Sees Long, Hard Campaign with ‘Twists and Turns’

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Stumping Wednesday at one of her first solo public campaign rallies of the year, first lady Michelle Obama didn’t utter the word "Wisconsin" or discuss Democrats’ defeat in that state after months of organizing to oust Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

But her message to supporters, in the wake of what transpired a thousand miles from there, could not have been clearer: the 2012 race is going to be a grinding fight that will require more passion and commitment from Democrats than it ever has before.

“I am not going to kid you: this journey is going to be long, and it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way,” Obama told the crowd of 1,100 packed into the National Constitution Center.

“But just remember that’s how change always happens in this country. And if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, eventually we get there, we always do,” she said.

The first lady implored her audience to take a close look at her husband’s record -- steady private sector job growth, the resurgent auto industry, health care reform and end to the war in Iraq -- and “get out there and remind people.”

“We need you to tell them about it, but we also need people to know that all of this and so much more is at stake in November,” she said.

“It all boils down to one simple question: will we continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made, or will we let everything we’ve fought for slip away.”

“Convince them with every ounce of energy in your soul to join you in giving a little part of your life each week to this campaign,” she said later.

Mrs. Obama attested to her husband’s character, calling him an “extraordinary man.” And though she never mentioned presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, she suggested the president is the only candidate in the race who understands what it means to be middle class.

“When there’s a choice between protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack stands,” Obama said in an impassioned flourish. “And when we need a leader to make the hard decisions to keep this country moving forward, you know you can count on my husband, your president.”

Mrs. Obama’s visit to Pennsylvania, her third of the year, underscores the importance of the state to her husband’s electoral road map.

President Obama carried Pennsylvania in 2008 by 11 points over John McCain -- 55 to 44 percent -- and its 20 electoral votes would be a significant pickup on the path to 270.

A new poll by Franklin & Marshall College shows Obama leading Romney by 12 points there, 48 to 36 percent, with 12 percent of voters undecided.

“The president enjoys significant advantages over Mitt Romney in his personal popularity and most voters believe he is better prepared to handle the presidency even though they are ambivalent about some of his major policy initiatives,” the poll said in a press release.   The survey, conducted May 29 to June 4, has a margin of error of 4.8 points.

But Democrats aren’t taking anything for granted, especially with Obama’s underwater favorability rating and weak numbers on his handling of the economy in the latest poll.

Sixty-one percent of voters in the Franklin & Marshall poll said Obama has done only fair or poor on the economy; 38 percent said good or excellent.

“In the end this could come down to the last few thousand people that we register to vote,” Mrs. Obama said Wednesday. “It could all come down to those last few people we help get to the polls on November 6.”

Elaine Tomlin, a neighborhood team leader for Obama’s campaign, said the first lady’s message is exactly what Democrats in Pennsylvania need to hear.

“We’ve been phone banking since July of last year. We’re a big team in Philly and we know we’re going to need an army with the obstacles put out there with the voter ID law,” Tomlin said.

“We know what we have to do. Even though the GOP has the dollars, we have the grassroots campaign. And it’s one person, one vote. It’s our goal to have turn out be very high,” she said.

The first lady is back on the campaign trail on Thursday with another grassroots rally in Woodbridge, Va.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Philadelphia Politicians to Romney: Walk Our Streets

Mario Tama/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- As Mitt Romney went on a tour of a charter school in urban Philadelphia, sitting in on a music class and participating in an alliteration exercise with an English class, outside on the curb the city’s mayor and a gaggle of protesters stood infuriated at the candidate’s absence on the streets of their city, suggesting it was a failure by the candidate to relate to urban America.

“I am glad the Republican candidate has come to West Philadelphia, but instead of just talking at the school and getting back on his huge bus, he should come out, he should walk 60th Street, he should talk to folks who are out here that are mad so maybe he could understand how real Americans, those that live here in urban America, the issues that are important to us,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams in a press conference organized by President Obama’s campaign and also attended by the city’s mayor, Michael Nutter.

“So it’s important that he’s here, I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be here, but it’d be very important if he were to really meet real people and talk to them for more than just a press event,” said Williams, who stood flanked by a group of about 50 protesters, holding signs that read “We are the 99 percent” and “In Philly Schools No bullies allowed,” a reference to a recent Washington Post article that alleged that Romney was a bully during his own high school years.

Those protesters on the street told ABC News that some of them have children who attend the Universal Bluford Charter School, the site of Romney’s education roundtable and tour Thursday, but were not invited inside to meet Romney.  Thursday’s event marked one of just a handful of Romney’s events that have taken place in an urban setting.  The event was not open to the public and included only Romney and 11 educational leaders and teachers from the school.

Nutter, repeating many of the Obama campaign’s talking points challenging Romney’s record in Massachusetts, said that he wasn’t sure why Romney came to the city.

“I don’t know why this guy’s here,” said Nutter. “[He] has suddenly somehow found West Philadelphia, somehow now wants to talk about education,” said Nutter.

Talking about Obama, Nutter said the president “spent time in a bunch of cities all across the United States of America, in New York, served in the general assembly, has run this country during the worst recession since the Great Depression and has put millions of people back to work.”

“Mitt Romney running his financial services firm put people out of work, damaged Americans, damaged families, caused people to lose their jobs, possibly lose their homes and all of that,” said Nutter. “Let’s talk about that. You want to have an urban experience? You want to have a West Philly experience? Then come out here and talk to somebody in West Philly.”

Inside the school, Romney outlined his education platform, which promotes school choice and a more stream-lined approach to school report cards and teacher evaluations. Reducing the class sizes, Romney said, was not key to students success, a claim many of the teachers in the roundtable took issue with.

“It’s nice that he decided this late in his time to see what a city like Philadelphia is about…It’s May,” said Nutter. “The election’s in November. I’m not sure what he’s going to learn here today. I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for a comment regarding Nutter’s press conference and the protest.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney, Philly Teacher Go Head-to-Head on Class Size

Mario Tama/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- During a visit to a struggling West Philadelphia charter school Thursday meant to highlight his newly unveiled education platform, Mitt Romney was challenged by teachers at the school on his claim that small class sizes is not key to students’ success. Instructors at the school told the candidate about the struggles of teaching effectively in packed classrooms.

“I heard your position on class size and testing,” said Steven Morris, a teacher at the Universal Bluford Charter School, which serves students in grades K thru sixth grade. “But you know, I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I have been teaching, 13 years, who would say that more students [in the classroom] would benefit.”

Morris was one of eleven teachers and educational leaders who joined Romney in a library in the school for a roundtable discussion.  

“And I can’t think of a parent that would say I would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher,” Morris continued. “So I’m wondering where this research comes from.”

Romney opened the roundtable with remarks about his own education policy, during which he detailed what he did during his time as governor of Massachusetts, noting that information he gathered across the states found that smaller classroom sizes did not correlate to student performance.

“I came into office and talked to people and said what do we do to improve our schools and a number of folks said we need smaller classroom sizes, that will make the biggest difference,” said Romney. “We had 351 cities and towns and I said let’s compare the average class size from each district with the performance of our students. Let’s test our kids and see if there is a relationship. And there was not.”

“As a matter of fact, the district with the smallest classrooms Cambridge had students performing in the bottom 10 percent,” said Romney. “So just getting smaller classrooms didn’t seem to be the key.”

Romney went on to say that teacher quality as well having kids raised in stable environments with a mom and a dad and school leadership were found to be “highly correlated with success in schools.”

Another teacher, Ronald Benner, also chimed in on the class size issue at Bluford, remarking, “It’s large enough, actually it’s too large.”

“It varies between classes but anywhere from 23 to 28 somewhere in there,” he said. “And you can give more personalized attention to each student if you have a smaller class size.”

Kenneth Gamble, the founder of the charter school, turned the discussion back to Romney, asking him bluntly, “What’s your view on it?”

“On class size?” Romney responded, before doubling down on his stance that class room size is not the defining factor in school success. “Well if you had a class of five that would be terrific, if you had a class of 50 that’s impossible. So there are points where I think those who have looked at schools in this country and schools around the world, McKenzie for instance, that consulting firm McKenzie Institute, which is a think tank type organization went around the world and looked at schools in Singapore and Finland and South Korea and the United States and looked at differences and said gosh, schools that are the highest performing in the world, their classroom sizes are about the same as in the United States.”

“So it’s not the classroom size that is driving the success of those school systems,” said Romney again. “And then they looked at it and said well what is driving the success of those school systems? It’s parents very involved and the idea of choice means you have chosen to be involved, parents are involved, excellent teachers, drawing teachers from the very best and brightest of graduates. And administrators that are able to guide the school with good policies of discipline and getting the right resources. So it was those things that tended to drive the most successful nations relative to those that were less successful.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Jabs Republicans, Raises Cash in City of Brotherly Love

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADEPHIA) -- President Obama served up some political red meat to campaign contributors in Philadelphia Thursday night, bashing his Republican challengers while picking up more than a million dollars for his campaign and the Democratic party.

“This campaign is at its early stages, I’ve got a day job, I’ve got other things to do,” Obama told about 800 supporters at a downtown hotel ballroom.  “But while I’m working there will be candidates parading around the country.  And they’re gonna do what they do which is they’re gonna attack here in Philadelphia, they’re gonna attack.  They won’t have a plan but they’re going to attack.”

But the American people, Obama insisted, didn’t want to hear the back-and-forth of politics “as we’ve come to know it.”

“They are less interested in hearing us exchange insults about the past, they want us to exchange ideas about the future,” he said.  “That’s the contest I’m looking forward to because I know that’s the contest that America needs and, by the way, that’s the contest that we will win.”

“I know there’s some of you who are frustrated because we haven’t gotten everything done that we said we were gonna do in two-and-a-half years,” Obama explained.  

“There are times when I feel frustrated but we knew this wasn’t going to be easy. … There will be times where we will stumble just like we stumbled sometimes during the first campaign,” he said.

“It’s only been two-and-a-half years.  I got five-and-a-half years more to go,” he said to wild applause.

His speech was punctuated twice by hecklers, including some AIDS activists who have now made it a practice to interrupt Obama’s campaign events.  Both times the hecklers were shouted down by Obama supporters.

Obama was also to address a smaller crowd at a bigger-dollar fundraiser at the home of David Cohen, a vice president at Comcast Corp., in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.  

The fundraisers, numbers 34 and 35 for Obama this year, come as part of an 11th hour push for donations before the close of the first major financial reporting period of the 2012 cycle.  The campaign had set a goal of $60 million by June 30.  It's required to formally report its total by July 15 with the Federal Election Commission.

A ticker on the campaign's website showed more than 489,000 individual contributors to the campaign so far -- well ahead of 180,000 contributors at this point in 2007.  During the same quarter in 2007, Obama raised $33.1 million.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Visits Liberty Bell, Plans Bus Tour Stop in New York

Jeff Fusco/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- More than a hundred tourists, fans, and members of the media crowded around Sarah Palin as she visited the Liberty Bell Museum in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

She told ABC News that she's relishing her whirlwind road trip.

"Each site we're at is just so inspiring," she said.

Palin confirmed she's heading to the Empire State next, saying, "We're going to spend a little bit of time here before we go to New York."

Todd Palin and other members of the Palin family accompanied the former Alaska governor on a tour of the museum as fans, press, and school tour groups jockeyed for her attention. Palin shook hands and took photos -- one with a crying child who stopped wailing when she bent down to pose next to his stroller.

As far as her plan for the 2012 election, Palin maintained she's still figuring out her plan, but confirmed to reporters that she will visit Iowa, a key state in the race to the Republican nomination.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man Who Streaked Through Obama Rally Sentenced to Probation

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) --  The New York man who was arrested for streaking at a Philadelphia rally for President Obama in October, has been sentenced to two years' probation, according to The Philadelphia Daily News.

Juan Rodriguez, 24, of Staten Island, N.Y., stripped down to nothing but his black sneakers while Obama was speaking at a rally Oct. 10 in the Germantown section of Philadelphia on an Internet dare to win $1 million.

Rodriguez ran through the crowd with the name of a website written across his stomach while shouting the name of the site to the crowd, but did not receive his $1 million. Instead, he was arrested on charges of indecent exposure, disorderly conduct and open lewdness.

During a stipulated trial on Friday, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brandyn Hicks argued that Rodriguez caused a hazard when he streaked in front of a crowd with such tight security. He also brought up a 2004 offense in which Rodriguez obtained transportation without paying; Rodriguez explained that this was a case of jumping a subway turnstile as a teenager.

Hicks requested Municipal Judge Lydia Kirkland give Rodriguez three to 23 months in jail. Instead Kirkland gave him two years' reporting probation, to be served in New York.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Final Stretch: Obama Rallies Young Voters in Philadelphia

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- Campaigning in Philadelphia on his final push to election day, President Obama rallied hundreds of young people in blue T-shirts in a Temple University gymnasium, urging them to knock on 20,000 doors in coming days to turn out votes because “we could fall short, and all the progress we’ve made over the last couple of years could be rolled back.”

“You can’t stop now,” he shouted in an uncharacteristically short seven-minute speech.

At the back of the gym, tables were laden with hundreds of clipboards, each with a route marked out in a Philadelphia neighborhood for canvassing.  

Senate candidate Joe Sestak was allowed time to speak to the crowd nearly a half-hour before the president arrived.
Retiring Sen. Arlen Specter, who lost the Democratic nomination to Sestak, was asked by reporters to assess Sestak’s chances against Republican Pat Toomey.

"I think he's made a very strong case, closed the gap and in some of the polls he's ahead," Specter said. "So it's nip and tuck."

On his way out of town, the president stopped for lunch at the Famous Fourth Street Delicatessen for a corned beef Reuben, potato pancakes and sweet tea. Sestak joined him, ordering the pastrami.

Obama spent several minutes shaking hands with patrons of the shop, known for gargantuan servings and its soft-baked cookies produced at a bakery next door.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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