First lady woos 700 at Snow King
First lady Michelle Obama addresses a crowd of supporters during a luncheon Saturday at Snow King Resort. Photo Courtesy Mark Newcomb.View our entire photo gallery >>
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
August 13, 2012
The presidential election represents choices about improving health care, offering better access to schools, building a strong middle class and keeping the country safe, first lady Michelle Obama said Saturday during a rally at Snow King Resort.
Obama said she and her husband understand what it’s like to grow up in families where parents struggle to make ends meet. That’s why they know it’s important to protect and help the country’s middle class, she said.
“He’s lived it, and he believes that when you work hard and have done well in this country and have had the opportunity to walk through that doorway of promise, you do not slam it shut behind you,” Obama said.
Campaign officials estimate nearly 700 people attended the event, held in a large conference room at the hotel. They declined to release details about how much money the event raised for the president’s re-election bid. Tickets to the event started at $25, though those sold out soon after Obama’s appearance was announced. Many residents paid $100 to hear the speech.
Others who donated between $2,500 and $35,800 were allowed into a private buffet lunch beforehand. They had photos taken with the first lady in a cordoned-off area.
During her speech, which lasted roughly 45 minutes, Obama highlighted her husband’s support for health care reform, women’s rights, better access to education, gay marriage, small businesses and national security. She reminded the audience that Osama Bin Laden is no longer a threat and that her husband had kept his promise to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.
Most importantly, she said, her husband has had the fortitude to sift through all of the advice he is given and make these tough decisions.
“All you have to lead in those tough times are your values, your vision,” she said. “That’s all you have to constantly keep you on course. In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for, and I know what we all know, who my husband is and what he stands for, and we have seen again and again and again how willing he is to fight for us.”
Many donors who had their photos taken with Obama gushed about how warm she was. She greeted everyone with a friendly hello, a handshake and a hug, they said.
“She has this knack for making you feel like you’re this long-lost friend,” Democratic state Central Committee-woman Marcia Kunstel said.
Brief conversations ranged from urging the first lady to stand up for the country’s natural resources to asking her to make appearances elsewhere in the valley to complimenting her work to get children to eat healthier and be more active.
Though there were high-dollar tickets to the event, many residents and Democratic leaders contrast it with a Mitt Romney fundraiser held at Teton Pines last month. The lowest-cost ticket to that event cost $2,500. Tickets to a private dinner at Dick and Lynne Cheney’s home started at $30,000.
President Obama is not expected to carry Wyoming, but Democratic leaders said the first lady’s appearance helped invigorate voters and might prompt them to help out in other areas.
“I think it helped get people excited about the election,” Kunstel said. “It might motivate people to participate in other places, maybe as part of a phone bank or in another state, like Colorado.”
The event brought with it a strong security presence. Members of the Secret Service stood at the base of the stairwell leading to the room where Obama spoke, checking bags and people with metal detectors.
Guests at the hotel roamed past the guards on their way to and from the hotel, listening to the din of speakers from the upstairs.
“Mom, Mom is that her?” one child asked as her family walked back from the pool. “I want to listen.”
Obama left Snow King shortly after her speech. Her motorcade of black Suburbans was flanked by state highway patrollers as it whizzed down Willow Street.