Obama makes job, tax case to big donors

Sep 15, 2011, 6:48 p.m.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's awards gala in Washington, September 14, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama made the case for his re-election and his jobs plan at two big-ticket fundraisers on Thursday, emphasizing the importance of higher taxes to pay for his $447 billion proposal.

"We can pay for it in a way that is responsible and that has everybody sharing in the burden," Obama told the guests attending the first of two intimate $35,800-per-couple Democratic events.

In an effort to jump-start the stalled U.S. economy and cut the 9.1 percent unemployment rate, Obama made his case to Congress a week ago for the plan to generate jobs. The speech was crucial to Obama, whose hopes of re-election next year are largely tied to the state of the economy.

Obama said he was confident he would win a second term, although he acknowledged some of members of his party have "voiced concerns and nervousness" about the weak economy.

"The odds of me being re-elected are much higher than the odds of me being elected in the first place," Obama said to laughter from the 50 guests at the second event, a dinner at a private home in Washington's upscale Georgetown neighborhood.

He said the 2012 election was even more important than 2008, when he swept to the White House, because of sharp policy differences with Republicans. For example, Obama wants a second term to implement his overhaul of the U.S. healthcare industry while Republican presidential candidates vow to repeal it.

"That contest (2012) is going to, I think, help shape American for not just the next five years but for decades to come," Obama said.

In the face of strong Republican opposition to more spending and any tax increases, Obama has been taking his case to voters in the electoral swing states of Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, and challenging Congress to pass his act.

"We are going to run this like a campaign in the sense that we've got to take it to the American people and make the case as to why it is possible for Washington to make a difference right now," Obama said at the first fund-raiser.

He said Americans were responding "with extraordinary enthusiasm" to the jobs plan but moving ahead will take hard work. "Republicans in the House, their natural instinct right now is not to engage in the type of cooperation that we would like to see," Obama said.

The money raised went to Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic president joked to guests at his first stop that they could look to his opponents if they needed to be energized for the campaign.

"If you need some inspiration, go watch the Republican presidential debate," he said.

Democratic officials have been working to paint the field of Republican candidates as extremists whose views are outside the mainstream.

(Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

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