MIAMI — President Barack Obama urged Democratic donors at an NBA star-studded Coral Gables fundraiser on Monday to get out the vote and boost Democrats, telling them that his 2008 election "was only the beginning of the dream."
Obama spoke at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, who was joined by Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and former L.A. Lakers and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
Obama told donors that the U.S. economy is beginning to recover because lawmakers were willing to take tough votes. But Republicans, he said, "said no each and every time. … They don't have new ideas.
"We've got to tell them in this election you can't have the keys back," he said of Republicans, whom he accuses at fundraisers of driving the economy into a ditch, and then standing around "with Slurpees" as Democrats labor to fix it. "You don't know how to drive!"
The event raised an estimated $1 million for congressional Democrats and Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, whom Obama apologized for calling Ron Klain in his introductory remarks. Klain is vice president Joe Biden's chief of staff.
He gave two speeches open to the press; Klein did not appear next to him at either.
Obama boosted another campaign before leaving Washington, recording a radio ad for the lagging U.S. Senate campaign of Kendrick Meek. The president urges supporters to vote for Meek, noting, "If we work together, he will win."
Obama's visit comes a week before early voting starts Monday and marks his third fundraising trip to Miami this year as he labors to protect Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans hope to pick up 39 Democratic seats to overtake the House and have set their sights on Klein's Broward-Palm Beach swing seat. In 2006, Klein ousted longtime Republican E. Clay Shaw amid voter anger about President George W. Bush and the Iraq war.
Now the political mood has shifted, and Allen West, a black Republican with a $4 million war chest, has tapped into anger about the economy and Obama's sagging popularity ratings.
Obama touted Klein as a "strong ally for Israel" and a lawmaker who has fought for sanctions against Iran. He said Klein has looked out for small-business owners in the district. "He knows the people of South Florida; he has been listening to them," Obama said.
Before the fundraiser, Klein announced endorsements from several Republican city officials.
West sent an e-mail Monday blasting Klein for the fundraiser. He contrasted the up to $17,600 ticket price to the $5 breakfast he said he shared with House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner at the Gun Club Cafe in West Palm Beach. "You know your opponent is in trouble when they call in one of the most unpopular people in the United States for help," West said in a statement.
A group of about 20 activists pushing for a quicker end to the military's "don't ask, don't tell," policy protested the event.