ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports:
MIAMI, Fla. — As the Republican 2012 presidential candidates faced off in their first debate, the president spent tonight in Miami trying to recapture some of the excitement, and fundraising power, of his 2008 campaign. However, it was hard not to notice a lack of the famous enthusiasm that propelled Obama into office.
“I know the conversation you guys are having. ‘I’m not feeling as hopeful as I was.’ And I understand that. There have been frustrations, and I’ve got some dings to show for it over the last two and half years,” Obama told supporters in the second of three DNC fundraisers tonight in Miami. “But I never said this was going to be easy. … But what I hope all of you still feel is that for all the frustrations, for all the setbacks, for all the occasional stumbles, that what motivates us, what we most deeply cherish, that that’s still within reach. That it’s still possible to bring about extraordinary change.”
While Obama attempted to excite the crowd, there were rows of empty seats starring back at him and an underwhelming response from the crowd. Roughly 900 people were expected to attend the low-dollar fundraiser at the 2,200-seat Adrienne Arsht Center, with tickets starting at $44.
The other two events, held off-camera at private residences, were significantly more expensive. The first event, at the home of former Samsonite CEO and Ambassador to Singapore Steve Green cost $10,000 to attend, with the first $5,000 going directly to the campaign. The final DNC event for 40 people giving the maximum amount of $35,800 was held at the home of JP and Maggie Austin.
This marks the third time this year that the president has visited the critical swing state.
Roughly half way through his speech two protesters interrupted the president, repeatedly yelling, "keep your promise, stop AIDS now." The protesters were quickly silenced by the audience chanting, "Obama, Obama, Obama."
"The reason we’re here today is because our work’s not done," Obama said once they quieted down. “Our work is not complete. We're not at the summit. We’re just part way up the mountain. There is more to do."
The president spent a large portion of his speech looking back and running through a check list of his accomplishments over the last two and half years, including health care reform, advances in education, and appointing the first Latina to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Looking ahead, Obama said his 2012 campaign will be about the same thing it was in 2008: values.
“When I think about why our campaign drew so much excitement, it was because it tapped into those essential things that bind us together,” he said.
“We’ve got more work to do,” Obama admitted. “If they tell you, I don’t know, I’m not sure, I’m not convinced — you just remind them of those three words that captured this campaign, captured the last campaign and will capture the 2012 campaign: Yes, we can.”