Supporters, Protesters Meet Obama in San Francisco

Protesters wave picket signs as Obama speaks.

President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of close to 6,000 people Monday evening at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, addressing his performance at last week’s presidential debates and hoping to increase support amongst voters as protesters congregated outside.

The president returned to California for a two-day fundraising trip for the sixth fundraising visit he has made to the state within the past year, starting in Los Angeles last Sunday night. His speech Monday night comes one week after his nationally televised debate with Mitt Romney, in which his performance was widely reported in the press to have been “weak” and underwhelming.

Obama was quick to criticize Romney, saying he remade himself a new image in last week’s debate, and stated in regard to his opponent’s policies, “we are not going back, we are going forward.”

An array of protesters demonstrated in front of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium during Obama’s fundraiser. Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University, was out protesting in support of the legalization of marijuana. The “War on Drugs” had failed she believed, and the criminalization of drugs was causing disproportionate incarceration rates amongst young minorities.

One woman, who was speaking in opposition to drone strikes, warned Obama supporters to ignore pro-Romney protesters, calling them “lunatics”.

Inside the auditorium, the response to Obama’s speech was largely positive, in sharp contrast to the protesters outside.

The president spoke on issues ranging from rising tuition, hiring new teachers and concerns regarding women’s rights. This comes in light of recent news that the economy recovered slightly within the month of September, with unemployment dropping to 7.8 percent – the first time it has dropped below 8 percent since Obama entered office.

CSU East Bay alumnus Briane Badelle, 29, said she was moved by Obama’s comments on maintaining federal grants.

“Like he said, I don’t have somebody, I don’t have a dad who is just going to pay my bills for me. So I rely on loans, I rely on grants, I rely on scholarships.”

Polls coming in Sunday, Oct. 7 after the debate show Obama maintaining a slight edge on his opponent, however, Rasmussen polling shows Romney with a two-point lead. Obama’s upbeat energy at Monday night’s fundraiser was in clear contrast to his personality during the presidentials debate last Wednesday.

Standing in front of a crowd of mainly supporters, Obama countered remarks Romney made earlier Monday morning at the Virginia Military Institute, where the Republican challenger criticized the President for pulling American forces out of Iraq.

“Bringing our troops home was the right thing to do,” said Obama. “Every brave American who wears the uniform of this country should know that as long as I am commander-in-chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world’s ever known.”

“And when our troops take off their uniforms, we will serve them as well as they served us,” he said.

In September, the president and fellow Democrats raised $181 million, a record for his re-election campaign  putting him on pace to hit an all-time high of $1 billion raised by the end of the election. Overall, President Obama and the Democratic National Committee – according to the latest data released by the campaign – has raised a total of $742 million. By comparison, the Republicans have raised $630 million.

Both campaigns are currently in the final stages of preparation for the vice presidential debate this Thursday, where Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will discuss domestic issues as well as foreign policy.