Updated 01/11/12 – 10:43 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — President Barack Obama was back in Chicago on Wednesday for a trio of fundraisers for his re-election bid and a surprise visit to his campaign headquarters.
The president touched down at O’Hare International Airport at about 4:10 p.m. before he boarded Marine One to head into the city. Before heading to his three fundraisers, Obama made an unannounced visit to his campaign headquarters at Two Prudential Plaza downtown.
According to deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, Obama to a few hundred members of his campaign staff for less than ten minutes. He thanked his staffers for their hard work said he hoped to run “a campaign that embodies the values we’re fighting for.”
Afterward, Obama headed to a fundraising concert at the UIC Forum.
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Obama praised his supporters from the 2008 campaign for “keeping up the fight for change long after the election was over.”
“That should make you proud. It should make you hopeful. It shouldn’t make you complacent, shouldn’t make you satisfied. Because everything that we fought for is now at stake in this election,” Obama added. The very core of what this country stands for is on the line; the basic promise that no matter who you are, or where you come from, there’s a place where you can make it if you try, that’s at stake in this election.”
The president also joked about going to the United Center to watch the Bulls and about the unseasonably warm weather waiting for him here in Chicago, but there was no joking about the warm welcome he got at UIC.
The crowd wasn’t huge; organizers said they sold 800 tickets, but the reception seemed to inspire the man they’d helped make history four years ago.
“If you’re willing to work even harder in this election than you did last election, I promise you, change will come. If you stick with me, we’re gonna finish what we started in 2008,” Obama said.
There were also a few dozen unfriendly faces outside the UIC Forum, as Occupy Chicago protesters voiced their displeasure with Obama and the Washington, D.C., status quo.
Many supporters, meanwhile, said they’re still optimistic about Obama’s future.
Asked if she thinks Obama has lost some momentum since the 2008 campaign, Meseret Negash told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov, “I don’t. I don’t think that all of the issues we mentioned – like health care, education and all the challenges we face – are solved overnight. It takes time.”
Fellow supporter Cheryl Katz said, “I’m concerned that people may believe that they don’t need to stand up and be counted again.”
Obama supporter Venita Hobson said, “I feel like, last time … everybody was so excited because it’s like, ‘This is our first black president, let’s do it.’ And I felt like it was so focused on that, but this time I feel like it’s so much more than that.”
But, as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, there’s little difference in the amount of money Obama needs to raise in the race for the White House. For that, his second stop was the real deal — a million dollar dinner on the North Side.
Media mogul Fred Eychaner was hosting the $35,800-a-couple dinner at his home in Lincoln Park.
Dan Levin, an Obama supporter since his days as a state senator, was among those paying for the dinner.
“I love him. We know him and we’re just completely excited about the very good potential of him being re-elected. We think he will and we’re putting in as much as we possibly can,” Levin said.
Gov. Pat Quinn was also among those at the dinner in Lincoln Park.
“My campaign cost $23 million in Illinois. It’s hard to believe. I can hardly fathom that amount,” Quinn said. “Think about running nationwide for president, it’s gonna cost hundreds of millions.”
Obama’s goal is said to be $1 billion for his campaign fund for 2012. That’s why he came back to Chicago on Wednesday.
A third reception has a slightly smaller price tag than the one on the North Side.
Obama will finish the night at the home Bear Stearns executive Stuart Taylor in Hyde Park, where tickets ranged from $7,500 per person to $20,000 per couple.
After the Hyde Park fundraiser, Obama flew back to Washington, D.C. Air Force One left O’Hare around 10:40 p.m.
Under federal election rules, the president’s campaign or the Democratic Party must pay a portion of the cost of his campaign trip. Although the White House has not disclosed the cost of the trip, the Democratic Party and the campaign must eventually disclose their costs as part of their monthly expenditure filings.
But, for example, Air Force One costs $187,000 per operating hour.
The government is reimbursed for that cost at a rate equivalent to a first class airfare plus 50 percent.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady was quick to lambaste the Democratic president’s visit to Chicago.
“This is a president that promised to heal the wounds to divide us, and he’s chosen not to work with the Congress,” Brady said. “We have a lot of problems to deal with here. He’s still got another year in his term, so I would think; I would hope he would be back more in Washington, or at least try to work all these economic problems out, but it appears he’s campaigning.”
Obama’s last fundraising visit to Chicago was last August. First Lady Michelle Obama headlined a fundraising effort in October.
Outgoing White House chief of staff Bill Daley joined the president on Wednesday. Daley will soon be coming home for good after he steps down at the end of the month.
“I wanna just publicly say how much I appreciate him,” Obama said.
Before the speech, Daley spoke about his decision to leave the White House, exactly a year after he took the job.
“It was time,” Daley said. “The President is on an uptick … The focus is shifting to the campaign.”
Asked what his plans are after leaving the White House, Daley said, “I’m going back to work.”
As for a possible run for governor, Daley said, “where’d that come from? … That’s not on my radar screen.”