In a trip drawing comparisons to Bobby Kennedy’s visit to the state’s heartland, President Barack Obama drew thousands on a California visit Sunday bound for the home of the late Latino leader Cesar Chavez.
Obama was joined by his two most prominent Hispanic supporters, Julian Castro and Antonio Villaraigosa, as the president continues to woo Latinos who are crucial to his re-election chances in several critical swing states.
Castro, who rose to prominence as the keynoter at last month’s Democratic National Convention, was especially front and center at three Los Angeles events where Obama raised an estimated $5 million to help fund the final month of the president’s re-election campaign.
“You have a special role to play,” the San Antonio mayor told 6,000 Obama supporters who packed a star-studded fund-raiser at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, one of the stops in Obama’s California visit.
Castro wasn’t talking about their involvement in California—he acknowledged that the Golden State was safely in Democratic hands.
“And though we are in no danger of losing California—and believe me, as a proud Texan, I wish I could say the same thing,” he said.
Instead he urged supporters to become involved in helping get out the vote in the important battle states by helping the campaign with calls to voters or by volunteering.
“Sign up to go to Nevada!” he said, referring to California’s neighboring state which is one of the potential swing states.
“Do not shut the door on opportunity for the American dream. It is not a sprint or a marathon—but a relay!”
With his image magnified hundreds of times on a large monitor above the stage, Castro was interrupted several times in an electric atmosphere where many in the crowd were on their feet.
“Romney’s advice to young people: borrow money from your parents,” he said of the Republican nominee, drawing laughter in the Obama rally. “His advice to billionaires: borrow money from young people!”
Castro was also critical of Romney’s proposal for turning around the economy—a plan that Obama has said will include $5 trillion tax cut, something the GOP nominee denies.
“Mitt Romney’s plan isn’t just bad policy,” said Castro. “It’s bad math.”
Obama, Julian Castro make the most out of California visit
Castro was such a hit with the crowd that one of those in the crowd tweeted:
“Jon Bon Jovi set at #Obama2012 benefit is absolute momentum killer after Mayor Julian Castro.”
In addition to Bon Jovi, other performers included Earth, Wind and Fire, Jennifer Hudson, Katy Perry and Stevie Wonder.
Tickets for the Nokia Theater event ranged from $44 to $2,500.
After the concert, Obama spoke to about 150 guests who paid $25,000 per person for dinner nearby at by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at a restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live.
Obama, Castro and Villaraigosa are scheduled to leave Los Angeles Monday morning, bound for the small town of Keene in Kern County, where Chavez moved the headquarters of the United Farm Workers and where he spent his final years.
“It will be like it was when Bobby Kennedy came to the San Joaquin Valley—when he came here to celebrate Cesar’s fast for non-violence,” said retired farm worker Jorge Villamonte, alluding to Kennedy’s visit on March 10, 1968.
Kennedy, then the U.S. Senator from New York, visited Chavez that day as the farm labor leader ended a 25-day fast, reaffirming his union’s commitment to non-violence with a mass attended by 4,000 people.
On Monday, in Keene, the president will formally announce the establishment of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument.
“It will be a special day not just for Cesar’s memory,” said Villamonte. “It’ll be a historic day for all Latinos.”