Obama talks business, raises money in Seattle

SEATTLE - Sen. Patty Murray has built her reputation on what she brings home from the nation’s capital. On Tuesday, to the delight of Seattle Democrats, she brought a president.

In his first visit to the city as president, Barack Obama avoided crowds in favor of Democratic donors who could afford to pay $500 or $1,000 for a seat at his hotel luncheon or $10,000 for a more exclusive, 60-person gathering afterward.

The fundraisers were expected to be worth $1.3 million to Murray and Democrats as they defend her Senate seat from a challenge by Republican Dino Rossi.

Murray has been a dependable voice in the Senate for Obama’s agenda, including overhauls of health-insurance and banking regulations and his economic stimulus plan.

“We put in place an economic plan to help small businesses, and Patty Murray was there every step of the way,” Obama told a pack of national and local reporters Tuesday, citing loans and tax cuts and credits.

He called on Congress to pass a small-business bill that includes more such tax relief. Republicans are holding it up because of a $30 billion fund in the bill that would go to small banks for loaning out. Republicans like Rossi call it a tiny version of the 2008 bank bailout, but Obama said it will free up much-needed credit for small businesses to expand and survive.

Obama made the remarks flanked by three Washington business owners who had sat down with him as he lunched on half a turkey sandwich and a salad at Seattle’s Grand Central Bakery. Murray and former Gov. Gary Locke, now Obama’s commerce secretary, joined the group.

Crowds gathered in Pioneer Square to catch a glimpse of the president’s motorcade as it drove in and then rushed him off to the 1,400-person fundraiser at the Westin Seattle Hotel.

Protesters from the left and the right greeted Obama there, but he faced a friendlier crowd inside, including many Democrats who hope he’ll help remind voters who turned out for him in 2008 to return to the polls this year.

“I think having him here helps energize people with regard to why they voted for Obama in the first place,” said state Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma. “It certainly isn’t going to hurt in November.”

The audience was boisterous at times both during Obama’s speech – which focused on the economy and small business, but also included numerous jabs at Republicans – and remarks by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

“When you want to move forward, you put your car in D,” Obama said, to a round of laughs.

“When you want to go backward, you put it in R.”

“That’s not a coincidence.”

Gregoire took aim at Dino Rossi, Murray’s leading challenger and twice-defeated candidate for governor. He “can not, should not, and will not represent the state of Washington in the U.S. Senate,” she said. “2004: strike one. 2008: strike two. 2010: strike three, you’re out.”

Republicans and Rossi said Obama’s visit just confirms Murray’s re-election bid is in trouble.

State party Chairman Luke Esser said in a statement that Obama “comes to Seattle today because Senator Patty Murray is in the fight of her political life.”

At Obama’s second fundraiser of the day, at RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser’s expansive, modernist house on the Lake Washington waterfront, Murray was confident.

“You know, I’m up for election, and the pundits are saying the same thing they say about me every time I run. ‘Oh gosh, how is she going to do it, it’s tough out there,’” she said. “I know how I’m going to do it – with people like you at my back, just like I’ve been at your back for the last 18 years.”

Murray will add the money she receives Tuesday to the $3.2 million she had on hand as of July 28. Her campaign has spent at least $6.8 million already. Rossi last reported having $1.3 million on hand a month earlier.

Portions of this story were taken from a pool report. Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 jordan.schrader @thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics