Obama ‘Almost Speechless’ Thanking Donors in Chicago

By Lee Speigel

Dec 4, 2008 10:31pm

On the same day that his campaign reported they had raised roughly $745 million over the course of the campaign, President-elect Barack Obama Thursday night was nearly at a loss for words as he thanked donors for helping him win last month’s election.

“I’m almost speechless here, which I don’t usually get, because this is really a tapestry of our lives,” he told approximately 100 members of the Illinois and national finance committees gathered at a private Chicago club.

Earlier Thursday, the Obama campaign reported raising just over $100 million from Oct. 16 – Nov. 24, bringing their total for the campaign to a record setting $745 million, more than $400 million more than his rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had to spend, not including party funds. 

“I just want you to know that all of you had more to do with us being successful than just raising money,” said Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle. “You helped shape Michelle and myself. Many of you have been part of our children’s lives. Many of you have helped to support us, through thick and through thin. And so I’m just very grateful to all of you.”

“We didn’t just win, but we ran and won in the right way,” he told them.

But Obama cautioned his hometown crowd that now is when the hard work begins.

“Now we’ve got a lot of work to do and I don’t want to sugar-coat the amount of work there is to be done,” he said at the Standard Club, just blocks away from his transition headquarters.

“This is not goodbye,” he noted. “This is the start. This is not the end. This is just the beginning.”

The President-elect’s remarks came during the brief portion of the closed event that a print pool reporter was allowed to cover. Obama for America paid for the food and drink and no admission fee was charged to the guests, who had all received invitations.

“This is a gathering of friends and we wanted to do it precisely because all of you are friends,” Obama said. “You know, in politics, often times you say folks are friends when what you really mean is they supported you – and sometimes only after it became apparent you were winning. In this case, it’s absolutely true.”

“I could not have asked for better leadership,” he told a crowd that included Penny Pritzker, the chairwoman of his national finance committee, and John Rogers and James Crown, members of his Illinois finance committee.

In his introduction, Crown reminisced about the early days of the President-elect’s quest for the Oval Office, specifically a gathering in his living room the weekend Obama announced his campaign in February 2007.

“I think at that moment we might have had 50 percent of all the people in the country that believed this could happen,” he recalled, noting that at the time it felt “awkward” and “silly” to call Obama the nation’s next president.

“Early investors, the ones that get in on the ground floor, are entitled to superior returns and I want you to know that you’ve been getting them,” Crown pointed out to the guests. 

– Jake Tapper and Matt Jaffe

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