Obama in Orange County: Enter the Great Divider

Today President Obama jetted off to California for yet another big-bucks fundraising event, a breakfast “at the Corona del Mar home of Geoffrey and Nancy Stack, with tickets ranging from $2,500 for a spot on the tennis court to $35,800 for a seat inside and a photo with the president,” according to the Orange County Register.  The event was expected to bring in $1.2 million for the Obama 2012 campaign.

Unfortunately, his fundraising tour took Obama through the “red state” parts of California, where he was greeted by a sizable number of protesters.  One of them carried a sign reading, “Breakfast with Obama: $38,000.  4 Years of Political Favors: Priceless.”

Another sign, carried by a small child, said “National debt: $15 trillion.  My share: $49,000.  And I’m only 8.”

Brian Calle of the OC Register put together a slide show of the protesters, who even brought cavalry reinforcements.  (By the end of a second Obama term, the ability to ride on horseback might become a much more commonplace middle-class skill.)  Calle sets up the scene:

Hundreds of protesters lined Pacific Coast Highway Thursday morning to greet President Barack Obama who was visiting Newport Beach for a campaign fundraiser. Most of the attendees awaited the arrival of the president in protest though a number of pro-Obama supporters were sprinkled throughout the crowd.

This, Obama’s first visit to Orange County since 2009, was characterized by several blocks of protesters wielding a variety signs reading “Catholics Say No To Obamacare,” “Get Out Of My Way- I am a Business Owner,” “Evict Obama,” “Enough is Enough,” “End of an Error” and many others. One pro-Obama sign that stuck out in memory read “Thank You for Getting Osama,” in reference to the administration’s killing of former al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden last year.

The pro- and anti- Obama demonstrators mixed, with spirited results:

President Obama’s appearance, and the mixed reaction he received, illustrates a broader ideological divide not only in the Orange County community but perhaps nationally. As one protester said “He was billed as the great ‘uniter’ but he has become the great divider.” A few of the dueling protesters minced words, as to be expected. One gentleman told a sign-displaying Obama supporter “Move along. The paid supporters are down that way.”

Even in a Republican stronghold like Newport Beach though, the Democratic president had dedicated and boisterous support. A crowd of his supporters chanted “Four more years.” One anti-Obama protester said of the chanting supporters “they may be louder but there are way more of us,” referring to the greater number of anti-Obama protesters. Nonetheless, the president will likely raise a significant chunk of change for his reelection efforts in a typically red county and the presence of a noticeable number of pro-Obama supporters may illustrate the increased ranks of Democrats, progressives and their allies in the county.

It looks like Newport Beach taxpayers will be saddled with an estimated $20,000 in costs for security during Obama’s fundraising visit, although the city manager is hoping to submit some of those costs for reimbursement, presumably from the Obama campaign.  That should eat up a good chunk of one $38,500 dinner plate.