SAN FRANCISCO -- President Barack Obama arrived in the Bay Area Wednesday evening for a fresh round of fundraisers, hours after stopping in Colorado to make his case for tougher federal gun laws.
Air Force One touched down at San Francisco International Airport at 5:30 p.m. The presidential motorcade then zipped north to a pair of pricey fundraisers in San Francisco, where several hundred protesters rallied against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Obama told Democratic donors at a cocktail reception at the Sea Cliff home of billionaire Tom Steyer that he wants House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco -- who was in attendance along with other Bay Area congressional Democrats -- to be House speaker again.
The president spoke broadly about wanting to confront climate change. But he said he needs to convince the middle class that he is working as hard for them as he is for the environmental agenda.
"The politics of this are tough," he said. "If you haven't seen a raise in a decade, if your house is still $25,000-$30,000 underwater, if you're just happy that you still have that factory job that is powered by cheap energy ... you may be concerned about the temperature of the planet, but it's probably not rising to your No. 1 concern."
Tickets for the event at the home of Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, cost between $5,000 and $32,400. After that event, Obama attended a fund-raising dinner at the Pacific Heights home of billionaire heirs and philanthropists Ann and Gordon Getty. Funds from the events will benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
On Thursday, the president will attend two more fundraisers in Atherton to benefit the Democratic National Committee. Liz Simons and Medley Partners Managing Director Mark Heising will host a brunch at their Atherton home, at $32,400-a-ticket, followed by a luncheon at the Atherton home of former insurance mogul and Levi-Strauss heir John Goldman and his wife, Marcia, where tickets cost $1,000 to $20,000. Obama was set to depart from SFO Thursday afternoon.
The Republican National Committee posted a video to YouTube on Wednesday calling Obama's visit to "billionaire's row" the "definition of hypocrisy." The video shows clips of Obama asking the richest to "pay a little bit more" -- a reference to higher taxes on the wealthy -- but is edited to make it look like the president is asking for more campaign cash.
Earlier Wednesday, speaking at the Denver Police Academy, Obama brought up Colorado's Columbine tragedy 14 years ago and last year's Aurora theater shooting in advocating for gun control laws such as universal background checks while evoking the West's proud tradition of hunters and sportsmen.
"And so I'm here because I believe there doesn't have to be a conflict in reconciling these realities," Obama said. "There doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights."
Obama praised Colorado leaders for enacting the kinds of gun control laws that he is pushing for the entire country since his State of the Union address. A vote in Congress could come as soon as next week.
"And so we've seen (Colorado) enact tougher background checks that won't infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners but will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," the president said.
On Monday, the president is expected to speak on guns at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, the state where 20 children and six staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
After flying west Wednesday from Denver, Secret Service members and other authorities greeted Obama when he landed at SFO, though no members of the public were allowed in the closed-off area. After emerging from the plane, the president waved at the top of the stairs, moved down them quickly and ducked into his motorcade.
An "only in San Francisco" crowd of protesters, many chanting and holding signs, gathered outside the Getty home by the late afternoon.
One protester was dressed in a polar bear outfit. Police hauled away a drone replica. Others chanted, "Hey, Obama, we don't want no pipeline drama."
Becky Bond, political director of the liberal activist group Credo, said, "If he approves it, this will be the Obama Tar Sands Pipeline."
UC Berkeley student and Sierra Club intern Ahley Broder said, "We need to be focusing on more sustainable sources of energy to reduce oil dependence."
Keystone opponents did not demonstrate at Steyer's home because of his opposition to the project.
"No doubt Tom Steyer, who is deeply committed, is going to be delivering a strong message to the president when he talks to him in person," Bond said.
Steyer told the donors who came to his home: The president "is doing everything he can on the issues that we care about. He has political limitations ... so we really have an obligation to help him."
The State Department, which has the final say on the Keystone pipeline because it crosses an international border, issued an environmental report on the pipeline last month that found no evidence to block the project, raising worries among opponents that the administration was on track to give its OK. A public hearing on the report is scheduled for this month.
Obama has been under pressure from environmentalists to scuttle the project, while labor unions and Republicans have been pushing for its approval because of its potential to create jobs.
The project received renewed attention in recent days after an Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture in Arkansas on Friday prompted the evacuation of nearly two dozen homes in the town of Mayflower in the central part of the state.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday deflected questions about the Keystone project.
"When an incident like what has happened in Arkansas occurs, there are procedures in place," Carney said. "The EPA takes the lead; the responsible party is held responsible, as is the case in this situation."
As for Keystone, he said: "We've seen over time that there are strongly held views on this issue, on both sides. And the president is following a process that has been in place for quite some time, through multiple administrations of both parties, and that is the way it should be."