The President of the United States Barack Obama came through Stamford Monday evening and stopped by for what was essentially a cocktail hour before heading on to the main event—a dinner in Westport.
POTUS gathered supporters at the Stamford Marriott for a $500-a-head reception where he spoke for approximately 25 minutes. Guests said Obama was every bit as dynamic and personable in person as how he comes across on television.
"He really rallied the troops," said Kevin Segalla, who attended the event with his wife Michele. "He had a really great line where he compared Romney's stealing from the poor to give to the rich to a reverse Robin Hood. He called it a Romney Hood."
Segalla estimated there were about 400 people who attended the standing-room-only event. He also said Obama didn't hang around for long, just made his appearance, spoke, shook some hands and left.
Lea Mintz was celebrating her 87th birthday with the trip, accompanied by State Representative candidate Leon and Maria Karvelis. Mintz was glowing about the president giving her a little gift of his own.
"He gave me a kiss right on my cheek," she exclaimed. "I'm 87 today and that's why I got this kiss!"
To the audience, Obama said he's never claimed to be perfect, only that he would continue fighting in the best ways he knew how to make the lives of the American people just a little bit better.
"Five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, won't we be better off if we had the courage to keep working and to keep fighting and moving forward—understanding that it's not easy," Obama said. "Change has never been easy."
Greenwich Democratic Selectman Drew Marzullo, who was a member of the host committee, said, "The president is an inspirational speaker. He talked about how we have a clear choice in the election ... I am more committed than ever to getting him reelected."
Marzullo said he liked what he heard from Obama. "His central theme was the economy and what he believes in—that we have a ways to go (for recovery). He understands how hard it is," said Marzullo who added that he helped raise $20,000 for Obama's Stamford visit.
Outside for a good portion of the front end of Obama's visit to Stamford, the local Tea Party movement took up the sidewalk across the street from the Marriott, in front of the fenced off redevelopment site on Tresser Boulevard.
Marzullo said he met Obama for "about 60 seconds. He was very gracious and funny."
They didn't like the change Obama has been working towards in America, and many want him out of office and "want our country back," according to many of the signs available for perusing.
"We're here to send a message to President Obama and the six incumbents in there with him," said Palin Smith, co-organizer of the protest efforts. "We've got members here from Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut. We want people to know we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore."
Smith said the movement is "not dead, just tired," but promised a new push as the election campaigns around the area ramped up.
"It's time to put some new blood in this old elephant," he said.
He said it's time for a movement of the Connecticut Republican party to move towards the principals of old.
"We need lower taxes, smaller, more efficient government and a more business-friendly environment," he said. "I used to be able to get a CD with 3 or 4-percent interest on it, now those are down to .75-percent interest. They're robbing elderly people of their savings."
To that point, even though there's no way he could have heard it, Obama responded while addressing the audience inside.
"When you're talking to your friends and your neighbors, and they're saying, 'Well, I don't know, I'm not sure?' You just tell them, look, if you believe that a plan to just cut taxes and eliminate regulations is going to make our economy stronger, even if it means gutting investments in education or infrastructure or science, if you want an America that essentially sets our sights lower, then by all means send these folks to Washington for the next few years."
One of the last things the tea party did before leaving was start a raucous chant of "Chick-Fil-A, Chick-Fil-A." Smith had purchased 101 sandwiches at a Chick-fil-A earlier in the day—"One for me and 100 for my friends," he said—to support what he called "a business that deserves to run itself how it sees fit without being discriminated against."
While the Tea Party members knoshed on chicken sandwiches, one attendee said that fund-raiser supporters got to munch on "peanuts and chicken (appetizers) and cheap wine whether they paid $10,000 or $500."
Among the high-profile names in Connecticut politics in attendance for the event were Stamford's former mayor and now Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lieutenant Gov. Nancy Wyman, Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Jim Himes, both of Greenwich; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy. Stamford Democratic City Committee Chairman John Mallozzi and state Rep. Geoff Fox were also in attendance, as was state General Counsel Andrew McDonald and Stamford city Rep. Gloria DePina, according to White House reports.
Obama left the Stamford Marriott in a motorcade of several vans, large black SUVs, police escorts on motorcycle, in cars and large special-purpose trucks and two Presidential limousines just a gun turret shy of being a tank.
They took the motorcade back to Westport, where the President had thrown everyone off instead of flying by helicopter there to Sherwood Island state park which was closed for the day Monday. In Westport, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein threw a $35,800-a-head party for the president doing his part to help the president close a $2 million funding gap between he and Mitt Romney.
- Local editor Barbara Heins contributed to this report.