September 26th, 2011
08:13 AM ET
In the latest sign the race for the White House is well under way, President Obama took direct aim at Texas Gov. Rick Perry Sunday night as well as some of the now-infamous crowd reactions at recent Republican presidential debates.
“Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republicans but are puzzled by what's happened to that party. I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately?” Obama told supporters at a private fundraiser hosted in Woodside, California Sunday night, where tickets cost as much as $35,800 per person.
“You've got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change," Obama continued, in a clear reference to Perry. "It's true. You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they're gay.”
"That's not reflective of who we are," the president also said. "This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country. 2008 was an important direction. 2012 is a more important election."
The event was hosted by John Thompson, chairman of computer software company Symantec and once considered to be a top choice for Commerce Secretary. Obama played up the corporate theme during his remarks:
"I'm back to report to you, my stockholders," he said, adding later, "We have to remind ourselves is the reason we're successful is because somebody made an investment in us. We didn't do all of this on our own.”
Later in the evening, the president attended a separate private fundraising event hosted by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Pop star Lady Gaga was in attendance at that event and pressed the president over efforts to stop bullying in schools. The president began the fundraising blitz in Seattle earlier Sunday, where he attended an intimate brunch and later a bigger event featuring former NBA star Bill Russell.
The president has three additional fundraisers Monday, including a private event in Los Angeles co-hosted by John Emerson of Capitol Group, top Hollywood political advisor Andy Spahn, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Tennis Channel's Ken Solomon.
Obama’s entire West-Coast swing is expected to net his campaign and the Democratic National Committee at least $8 million.
– CNN’s Jessica Yellin and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report