Obama helps Quinn raise campaign cash, touts economic progress

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President Barack Obama raised more than $1 million for Gov. Pat Quinn’s campaign Thursday at a $50,000-a-head Chicago fundraiser, then he helicoptered to Evanston, where he told Northwestern University MBA prospects with the economy brightening on his watch, you can’t call him anti-business.

“It is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than when I took office,” Obama said. “By every economic measure, we are better off now than we were when I took office.”

“At the same time, it’s also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most — and that’s in their own lives. And these truths aren’t incompatible.”

Obama and his team are often frustrated that they don’t get the credit they think they deserve. In the weeks before the midterm elections, GOP candidates — including Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner — are blasting Obama “as an anti-business” president whose policies are a drag on the economy.

In a rare visit home, Obama did a big favor for Quinn, locked in a tight battle with Rauner, who is pouring millions of his own dollars into his bid and has a network of enormously wealthy backers who are writing jumbo checks for his campaign.

Obama headlined the funder at the Gold Coast home of Meredith Bluhm-Wolf, whose father, business executive Neil Bluhm, has been a major Obama fundraiser. The morning event was attended by about 25 people.

While the Obama funder was limited to a small group, first lady Michelle Obama hits Chicago next Tuesday for some rally-style stumping to help Quinn, as his campaign is mounting a major early-vote drive.

Michelle Obama cut a radio spot for Quinn that started playing on Monday in which she says, “Barack and I are casting our votes for Pat Quinn.” 

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in downtown Chicago next Wednesday for a Quinn event.

Obama’s speech was hosted by Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and about 1,000 folks filled the Cahn Auditorium. The audience a blend of students, faculty, local elected officials, major donors and longtime friends, such as attorney John Levi.  

Levi holds a pivotal place in Obama history. A partner at the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, he has the distinction of hiring both Obama and another attorney by the name of Michelle Robinson. The Obamas met at the law firm and you know the rest of the story.

Obama’s speech plowed no new policy ground and was very tame. The audience was unusually subdued. The president lobbed a few hits at the Republicans in Congress who are blocking his agenda, but he’s done many speeches where he’s punched much harder.

More than attacking Republicans, Obama defended his own record, saying that critics call his policies “contrary to pro-business, capitalist free-market values.”

“. . . So this idea that somehow any of these policies — like the minimum wage or fair pay or clean energy — are somehow bad for business is simply belied by the facts. It’s not true. 

“And if you talk to business leaders, even the ones who really don’t like to admit it because they don’t like me that much — they’ll admit that actually their balance sheets look really strong, and that this economy is doing better than our competitors around the world. So don’t buy this notion that somehow this is an anti-business agenda. This is a pro-business agenda. This is a pro-economic growth agenda.”

Who’s who

At the fundraiser, donors included former state Senate President Emil Jones, who mentored Obama when he was a state senator; his son, state Sen. Emil Jones III; real estate mogul Judd Malkin; attorney Judy Gold; real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom; Astor Investment CEO Rob Stein; DSI Financial Restructuring Chief Bill Brandt, the chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority; and Glen Eagle Partners chief Howard Gottlieb.

At Northwestern, elected officials included Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin, who helicoptered up with Obama; U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, Mike Quigley and Robin Kelly; Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and state Sen. Terry Link.

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