President Obama stopped in Miami on Thursday to refuel his re-election campaign with big-donor cash and to bash Republicans for politically "licking their chops" over the high price of fuel at the pump.
"Some politicians always see this as a political opportunity. You're shocked, I know," Obama said to a crowd of hundreds of University of Miami students.
"Only in politics do people greet bad news so enthusiastically. You pay more, and they're licking their chops?" Obama asked rhetorically. "And you can bet that since it's an election year, they're already dusting off their three-point plans for $2 gas."
Obama's likely reference was to third-place Republican candidate Newt Gingrich, who has promised $2.50-a-gallon-gas on a "drill-here, drill now" platform.
All the Republican candidates have criticized Obama for not encouraging enough domestic fuel production and for rejecting what's known as the "Keystone Pipeline," which would deliver oil from Canada to Texas.
Obama never mentioned Keystone, but he did say that "my administration has approved dozens of new pipelines, including from Canada."
The president also boasted that "under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years." Unmentioned by Obama: nearly all of that drilling was approved under his predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Obama said, in the old days, he would stay and watch the Miami Heat-New York Nicks basketball matchup, but he had other things to do. Specifically, he has to raise money.
Obama is hitting up three high-dollar fundraisers: one at the swank Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, another at the Phome of a top Democratic fundraiser and a third at the Orlando home of basketball star Vince Carter.
The cheapest tickets for his Biltmore event cost $500. A picture with him at the Pinecrest home of Miami-Dade powerbroker Chris Korge could cost as much as $15,000. And the Orlando dinner price is as high as $30,000.
Obama's Pinecrest fundraiser is closed to the press. Since he's also speaking publicly, the lion's share of the Florida trip - which will exceed $1 million - will be paid for by taxpayers.
About a dozen protesters gathered outside the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, holding homemade signs, including one that read, "Obama Marxist/Muslim Dictator."
Pedro Delgado, a 69-year-old retired engineer who came to Miami from Cuba 50 years ago, wore a Rick Santorum button. Delgado said he worries about the country's education system and about the debt. "They have destroyed the dollar," he said.
The sign he carried read, "The deliberate destruction of our country by Obama and his handlers must be stopped."
Obama's visit, the second this year, comes as the economy is showing signs of improvement along with his poll numbers. Still, most Florida polls show his approval rating under 50 percent in a state that's still plagued by high unemployment and home-foreclosure rates.
The Republican National Committee noted that, since last year, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Miami has risen 82 percent, to about $4 per gallon.
"President Obama promised to be a leader on energy policy when he was campaigning in 2008, but gas prices have skyrocketed since he's been in office with most Floridians paying well above the national average," Sharon Day, a Broward County Republican and RNC co-chair, said in a written statement.
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