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Obama slams Republicans in West Coast money swing

Sep 25, 2011, 9:24 p.m.
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to supporters at a Democratic party fundraiser in Seattle, Washington, September 25, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

By Alister Bull

ATHERTON, California (Reuters) - President Barack Obama harshly criticized Republican opponents on Sunday as he began a West Coast fundraising tour, accusing them of "ideological pushback" at a time of national crisis.

In a swing likely to net his campaign several million dollars, the Democratic president deployed a newly combative tone to fire up core supporters.

"From the moment that I took office, what we've seen is a constant ideological pushback against any kind of sensible reforms that would make our economy work better and give people more opportunity," Obama said at his first stop in Seattle.

He needs the enthusiasm and financial backing of his base -- many of whom have voiced disappointment at his readiness to accommodate Republican demands -- to improve his chances of succeeding in his 2012 re-election bid.

Speaking at the home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, Obama said he had hoped "because we were in a crisis, the other side would respond by saying now is the time for all of us to pull together. ... That was not the decision they made."

Republicans won big in 2010 congressional elections by campaigning against his policies, which they blame for driving up the U.S. deficit without providing promised jobs. They have fought Obama all this year to curb federal spending.

Obama was greeted enthusiastically as he began to speak in Shirley's ultra-modernist home before about 65 people paying $35,800 per couple. At his second stop, 1,750 supporters paid to listen to him at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle.

Several hundred Democratic activists, frustrated with Obama, held a rally to call for job creation, higher taxes on the wealthy and protection of the Social Security and Medicare government programs for the elderly.

"I voted for him. I walked the streets for him. But now I'm confused," said Karen Pooley, 48, who is fighting to ward off foreclosure on her two-bedroom home in Seattle.

FUNDRAISING SPRINT

Obama is building an impressive war chest to finance what is shaping up to be a tight and expensive race for the White House next year.

He is cramming in seven fundraisers during the West Coast swing that descended later on Sunday on California's Silicon Valley, the heart of America's high-tech industry. He visits San Diego and Los Angeles on Monday.

Mocking Texas Governor Rick Perry, a top contender to win the Republican nomination to face him next year, Obama told a group of 350 at the home of Symantec Corp Chairman John Thomson that the current Republican party had "puzzled" some of its longtime supporters.

"You've got a governor (Perry) whose state is on fire, denying climate change. You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have healthcare," he said, referring to recent televised Republican debates.

He later spoke under a tent at the home of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, whose 70 guests included pop singer Lady Gaga, and told them that "2012 was an even more important election" than the one in 2008.

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