barack_obama_web_fc_4.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning and his wife Tracy Mourning welcomed President Barack Obama to their Coral Gables home Monday for a fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Florida.

Two of the Heat’s top players dined with Obama at the Mournings’ $12.5 million mansion at the Gables Estates. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined, among others, NBA legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Patrick Ewing.

According to transcripts released by the White House, Obama got in a few jokes with the basketball stars before getting down to business.

“I want to say to Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, I wish you the best of luck when you’re not playing the Bulls. I just want to be clear about that. I like you.  But when you’re playing the Bulls, I’m rooting against you,” joked Obama, who is known for his support of the Chicago basketball team.

The President didn’t let Johnson off the hook. “I’m stunned that Alonzo let a Laker in here. But I’m told he transcends party lines – so we’re glad to have Magic in the house,” he said.

Obama is among big-name Democrats stomping for Klein, who is locked in a hotly contested race with an African American opponent, Allen West, for the District 22 seat that includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

As Obama was using his star power to raise funds for Klein and other Democrats, West also brought in his own big-name supporter.

House Minority Leader John Boehner joined West for a campaign appearance in West Palm Beach.

And, in this closely watched race, Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis will join Congressman Alcee Hastings and Klein this
Friday at Payne Chapel AME Church, an historic black church in West Palm Beach.

Hastings is being challenged by Republican Bernard Sansaricq, whose campaign is based in Tamarac.

Klein and West both believe they will resonate with black voters.  But it is Klein, Obama said, who should get their votes.

“I just want to say a little about Ron, because so much of the reason we’re here is to make sure that he continues to do the outstanding work that he’s doing on behalf of South Florida,” Obama told dinner guests. “He knows the people of South Florida. He’s been listening to them, has been working for them, is fighting for them.”

Obama stressed the importance of the Nov. 2 general election, saying Democrats need to be able to complete the work he came into office to do.

Without mentioning West by name, Obama said Klein has been doing “heroic work under the most difficult circumstances.” He described those circumstances as the challenges he inherited from the Bush Administration, such as a slow job growth and a financial crisis.

“What we didn’t know when I started running, and what we discovered only in the few months before I won, was that we were about to enter into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said. “We lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I took office.”

Obama said while he has stabilized the economy, people are still hurting and Republicans want to capitalize on that situation.

“What the other side is trying to do is ride that anger and that frustration all the way to the ballot box,” he said. “They’re not counting on the need to offer good ideas. They’re just counting on people being angry and figuring that’s sufficient for them to get elected.”

Using a basketball metaphor, the President said, “I’m a pretty good point guard but I can’t do it alone. If I don’t have Ron there, doing the hard work each and every day to move this country’s agenda forward, we are not going to succeed.”

According to news reports, the dinner raised $1 million.

Earlier in the day, when Obama arrived at Miami International Airport precisely at 4:30 p.m., he greeted about 50 supporters, some with children dressed in their Sunday best, who came out to welcome him. They included Alisa Armstrong, who was visiting from Memphis, Tenn. The President shook her hand.

“I am so excited. It was the most wonderful experience of my life,” Armstrong said. “I’m 48 years old and got to shake the hand of the first black president of the United States.” 

Photo: President Barack Obama