Barack Obama swept into town last night in full campaign mode. In a fundraiser at the Fillmore in Miami Beach, the president gave love to the crowd, props to the Heat, and a good ribbing to Republican rival Mitt Romney. (To read about Marc Anthony's sultry pre-speech performance, click here.)
During a 35-minute speech sandwiched between reggaeton songs, Obama sought to draw a clear distinction between his recipe for economic success and what he called conservatives' "failed policies" of the past.
"What you need is somebody who's going to wake up every morning and fight for your job," he said to a standing ovation. "Prosperity doesn't come from the top down. It comes from a successful and striving middle class."
The biggest cheers of the night didn't have to do with the economy, however. They came when Obama talked briefly about immigration reform and a woman's right to choose.
The immigration issue was a no-brainer, coming less than two weeks after Obama announced an executive order halting the deportation of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as kids and had made successful lives for themselves. "They are Americans through and through, except for their paperwork," he said.
The president was even introduced by Maytee Lopez, a young Miami-based Obama volunteer whose Cuban and Spanish parents immigrated to the U.S.
Michael E. Miller
The president also drew applause when he recited achievements on gay rights such as the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Before the event, however, several dozen LGBT activists picketed outside. Singing songs and holding signs, the called on Obama to sign executive orders protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination (see our coverage here).
But like many liberals, their criticisms of Obama came across as half-hearted. Even their signs seemed ambivalent. Several simply read: "Obama 2012?"
(Update: Inside the Fillmore, one of the protestors -- local activist Muhammed Malik -- was kicked out by police after standing up and shouting at the president about enacting LGBT protection for federal employees. Malik wasn't arrested, just booted from the auditorium.)
Twenty feet away on the pavement, two other groups showed them how to protest. One guy who looked like Hunter S. Thompson's Zionist poltergeist waved an Israeli flag and held a board boasting North America's non-sequitur of the week: "Can't trust Obama. Bomb Iran."
Another protester seemed to have roped his wife and kid into tagging along. His sign was simple: "F_CK Obama." But what he lacked in visuals he made up for in a hoarse litany of surprisingly inventive invective.
"Obama's going to trash the White House," he roared, before plunging into the metaphor head-first. "It's time to clean up the dirty laundry. It's time to pick up our dirty socks."
Inside the Fillmore, Obama tossed a few firebombs of his own. He blamed Republican opposition for the failure to solve the deficit crisis. And he warned that Romney's plan to increase tax breaks for millionaires while cutting social services "would cost middle class families thousands of dollars."
Michael E. Miller
The biggest laughs of the night came when Obama brought up a recent article on how Bain Capital has invested in companies that outsourced American jobs.
"Yesterday, his advisers tried to explain by saying that there is a difference between outsourcing and off-shoring," the president scoffed before promising to boost U.S. manufacturing and keep other jobs in the country.
Obama showed flashes of the smooth, youthful energy he displayed on the campaign trail four years ago.
He opened by congratulating the Miami Heat on its NBA championship. "You guys earned it," he said before praising former center Alonzo Mourning, an Obama donor who was in the crowd.
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"Alonzo looks like he can still play," the president said. "He hasn't aged a bit. I'm getting all gray but he still looks the same." As if on cue, several woman in the crowd shouted out: "You're still fine."
And when one woman yelled out, "I love you Mr. President," Obama didn't miss a beat. "I love you back," he said.