Obama visit rattles Corona del Mar

President Obama swept through Corona del Mar on Thursday morning, raking in at least hundreds of thousands of dollars from supporters while rattling the sleepy village.

Obama protesters and fans crowded intersections along East Coast Highway, near the entrance to the tony Shore Cliffs neighborhood, the site of a private breakfast fundraiser.

Police said the event went smoothly, thanks in part to their heavy presence controlling traffic and crowds.

People, dogs and a horse named Sinatra started arriving about 6 a.m. at the intersections between Morning Canyon Road and Poppy Avenue.

The scene was distinctly Southern California, as officers tied tape around palm trees to hold back friendly but politically opposed groups.

As the morning progressed, a few exchanges escalated into yelling matches. Chants of "Four more years" were met with "No more years."

The president's motorcade entered the neighborhood about 9 a.m. Black Chevy Suburbans brought Obama to the home of hosts Jeff and Nancy Stack, a real estate developer and philanthropist, respectively.

About 170 supporters gathered under a white tent, according to a pool report from the Washington Post.

The couple's sprawling yard overlooks Little Corona Beach.

Obama greeted the most generous donors inside, and then addressed the rest of the group seated at tables in the backyard. Tickets to the breakfast ranged from $2,500 to $35,800 each.

"It was unbelievable. He really left me speechless," said Christina Lowry, 21, a UCLA senior who grew up in Newport Beach and attended with her mother, Jill Manly. "He had such a realistic, yet optimistic view of the world."

While Obama praised the economy's gains, he said he had much work left to accomplish, according to the Post report. He discussed closing the debt and reducing the deficit in a fair and balanced way.

"So even as we were grappling with this enormous economic crisis, we did not forget those challenges that led us to start that campaign in 2008 in the first place," Obama said.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) attended, but it is unclear whether any Newport Beach-area politicians attended.

The president's campaigning bothered some outside who raised signs like "Impeach Obama" and the yellow Tea Party banner "Don't Tread on Me."

Some said he was wasting tax dollars to attend a fundraiser, inconveniencing residents along the way.

John Wayne Airport air travel was restricted, as the Marine One helicopter convoy flew in and out, eventually departing about 11 a.m.

Streets in Shore Cliffs were closed for most of the morning, and traffic on East Coast Highway was blocked at times.

Perhaps the star of the protest was tea partier Nancy Johnson, the 55-year-old owner of Shear Attitude in Lido Village. She rode her painted horse in a revolutionary soldier's outfit, complete with three-pointed hat and a red feather.

Johnson said she was concerned about the president taking away citizens' rights to own weapons.

"He is trying to disarm our country," Johnson said of Obama. "You take away our weapons, you take our freedom away."

Obama supporter Nadine Hoffman, 53, of Laguna Beach, arrived at 6 a.m., waving an American flag and wearing a jean skirt with a peace patch sewn on.

"I'm here to let everybody know this is not your father's Orange County," Hoffman said, referring to the county's conservative reputation.

Some parents brought their children and grandchildren to the breakfast, said Manly, a Shore Cliffs resident.

Harbor Day School seventh-grader Will O'Connor attended with his mother, SueEllen O'Connor.

"We're all still in shock," she said afterward.

The event was catered by Costa Mesa-based The Golden Truffle. Donors munched on quiche and sipped juice and coffee. As they left, each attendee received a presidential seal sugar cookie from Newport Beach-based Wonderland Bakery.

"But people didn't eat very much," Manly said. "People were nervous."

At Gallo's Italian Deli, manager Bridget Morahan enjoyed the crowds passing by. She said protests kept away her morning regulars, but they brought in new business. The shop opened at 7:30 a.m. instead of the usual 9.

"It was nice to see all the people," she said. "Maybe Corona del Mar needs this, to bring a little excitement."

East Bluff resident Mike Jacobs said he hasn't been politically active since the 1960s, when he walked precincts for Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson. He and his wife, Susan, came to East Coast Highway to protest Obama's "tax and spend" policies, they said.

"We want to preserve our liberty," said the Jacobses, who are in their 70s. "This is an opportunity to express ourselves."

Latika Sethi, an Irvine resident and naturalized citizen originally from India, came to support the president.

"It was really a dream," Sethi, 60, said after the motorcade passed. "People don't realize what it means to be here, to be able to say what you want."


Twitter: @mreicher

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