Washington, DC: President Obama dined on Friday evening with the three winners of the sixth and final Dinner with Barack contest, arriving at Smith Commons Dining Room & Public House in the Atlas Arts District at 5:40 PM for a meal that lasted close to two hours. Not surprisingly, the President's three guests hailed from battleground states he hopes to win 25 days from now--Ohio, Colorado, and North Carolina--where he is polling neck and neck with his Republican rival. (Above: This photo tweeted by the Campaign had the caption "table for four," but showed only the President's face)
Also not surprisingly, the winners were two teachers and an auto worker. Favorite campaign talking points for Mr. Obama include his rescue of the car industry and bashing the GOP Congress for failing to support educators. Teachers, fire fighters, and health care workers have loaded the President's previous dinner contest guest lists.
Clad in a blue shirt and dark tie, the President fiddled with a paper menu as he was seated with his guests at a table in the main dining room covered with a brown cloth. Votive candles, napkin rolls and water glasses were on the table. The President laughed and quizzed his guests about their bios, leaning his head on his fist, as pool was allowed in for less than two minutes for a rapid photo op. The neighborhood bistro on the H St. NE corridor was closed to the public so the President and the winners could dine privately surrounded by huge lights and a video crew to film campaign spots that will be used in the final sprint to Election Day.
The lucky winners were Joe Laliberte, a social studies teacher from Colorado Springs, Colorado; Kimberley Cathey, an elementary school speech pathologist from Greensboro, North Carolina; and Mario Orosa, of North Canton, Ohio, a technical specialist at Goodyear. The President had breakfast in July with some of Orosa's Goodyear co-workers during one of his many visits to the Buckeye State. Each dinner winner brought a companion, and there were two spouses and one mom joining the fun. Race was a factor: Winner Cathey and her husband are African America, and Orosa is Latino, crucial voting blocs for the President. (Above: Cathey is second right; Orosa is beside the President and Laliberte sips water)
"Smith Commons offers something for every palate," notes the website, as well as a wide variety of craft beers. Entrees are priced from $15-$23, and include the Smith Burger with caramelized onions, bacon, and Chipotle mayonnaise--more than likely the President's order-- as well as seared braised short rib, seared scallops, turducken, lamb chops, parsley-crusted grouper, and chickpea ravioli. The menu [PDF].
Dining with supporters has been a tradition since Mr. Obama's first presidential campaign, and he was expecting his last Campaign contest dinner to be a wee bit emotional, he said in multiple emails asking for donations.
"It's bittersweet, but this is the last time we'll do this on this campaign," the President wrote in one email.
The push for entries for this particular dinner contest, the sixth since the Spring of 2011, included more emails than for any previous dinner, as well as videos, online ads, and an aggressive social media push. It helped America's most powerful dinner companion raise a record-breaking $181 million for his campaign in September, putting him within spitting distance of a $1 billion haul for this election cycle.
The President greeted the restaurant's staffers, posed for photos, and autographed a menu before departing the restaurant at 7:24 PM. "Great food! Barack Obama" the President wrote on the menu (above).
"Thanks for stopping by with a few friends, Mr. President. @BarackObama It was our pleasure! #POTUS" the restaurant tweeted after the President left, with the Instagram of the autographed menu.
The President was back home at the White House at 7:29 PM. The President last dined out in DC on Oct. 6th, when he celebrated his twentieth wedding anniversary with his wife with a date at Bourbon Steak restaurant.
News of street closures, a heavy security presence, and a white screening tent set up in front of Smith Commons alerted the neighborhood that the President would be visiting the eatery, and Twitter was abuzz with the news late Friday afternoon. Crowds lined H street, cheering and clapping as the President's motorcade arrived.
The winners' bios, courtesy of the campaign...
The three winners had to pass background checks, and will pay taxes on the assigned retail value of their individual prizes, $1,600. The Campaign flew them to DC by coach class air fare and put up for a one-night hotel stay. (Above: With Orosa)
*Kimberley Cathey is a mother of two young sons and is in her eighth year as a speech and language pathologist at a Greensboro, North Carolina public elementary school. Kim is a dedicated OFA volunteer and often hosts phone-banking parties at her home. She is a strong supporter of the President because she believes, “he is in tune with the average person.” She is especially grateful for his work to pass health care reform so her sons never have to worry about the costs of health care while in college, as she did. Kim’s husband, Ron, will accompany her to dinner.
*Mario Orosa is a native Ohioan and has worked in the research and development unit at Goodyear for 12 years. He is currently a technical specialist there. Mario supports the President’s decision to rescue the auto industry and invest in American auto workers, because he sees the positive affects not only on his job and the auto industry, but positive affect it had on his North Canton, Ohio community. Deidra, Mario’s wife, will accompany him to dinner.
*Joe Laliberte, a native of New Hampshire, living in Colorado Springs, CO, is a social studies teacher at a local Colorado Springs middle school. Joe supports the President because of his unwavering support for DREAMers, many of who are Joe’s students, and the Latino community as a whole. Joe’s mother, Patti, will attend the dinner with Joe and the President.
The previous Dinner with Barack contest meals...
The President has attended four previous dinners and one luncheon for the Dinner with Barack contests during this election cycle. Online dinner contests were also used for fundraising with George Clooney, Sarah Jessica Parker and Anna Wintour, with Michael Jordan and NBA stars and with former President Bill Clinton. A reception with Jay-Z and Beyoncé also had a contest. (Above: The graphic logo for the sixth Dinner with Barack contest included First Lady Michelle Obama, though she was not part of the dinner)
Taken together, the dinners have helped drop millions of dollars into the President's war chest, though the Campaign won't specify how much. The Clooney dinner last May was credited with raising at least $15 million.
The President and Mrs. Obama dined at DC's Mintwood Place restaurant on August 20, 2012 for the fifth Dinner with Barack contest, which had three winners and their guests.
The President enjoyed a cheeseburger and fries with the winners of the 'Dinner with Barack IV' contest on June 15th, 2012, when he took over DC's Lincoln Restaurant.
The First Lady also attended the third dinner with the President and the winners, which was held at DC's Boundary Road restaurant on March 8, 2012.
The second dinner contest was fulfilled with a luncheon; the President took his four winners to DC's Scion restaurant on January 6, 2012.
The President ate dinner with the four winners of the first Dinner with Barack contest on October 27, 2011, at The Liberty Tavern in Arlington, VA.
*CLICK HERE for links to all posts about the dinner series.
Above: The exterior of the restaurant, surrounded bys ecurity in the afternoon, tweeted by @Taylor_Gourmet.
Info: Smith Commons is at 1245 H Street, NE Washington, DC 20002. Phone: 202-396-0038.
*Top photo by Obama for America; second and third by pool; menu from Smith Commons; exterior photo by @Taylor_Gourmet