On Fundraising Swing, Obama Says GOP Would 'Cripple' America

President Obama charged Sunday that the GOP vision of government would "fundamentally cripple America" as he tried out his newly combative message on the liberal West Coast.

Aiming to renew the ardor of Democratic loyalists who have grown increasingly disenchanted with him, the president mixed frontal attacks on Republicans with words of encouragement intended to buck up the faithful as the 2012 campaign revs up.

"From the moment 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," the president said at an intimate brunch fundraiser at the Medina, Wash., home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, where about 65 guests were paying $35,800 per couple to listen to Obama.

Similar messages followed at an event in Seattle and another in California's Silicon Valley Sunday evening, as Obama pushed through a seven-stop fundraising swing that was taking him from Seattle to Hollywood to San Diego through Monday. The three-day West Coast swing, ending Tuesday in Denver, offered him the chance to re-engage with some of his most liberal and deep-pocketed supporters.

The trip comes as Obama has shifted from focusing on compromise with Republicans on Capitol Hill to calling out House Speaker John Boehner and others by name. The president has criticized them as obstructionists while demanding their help in passing his $447 billion jobs bill.

The revamped approach is a relief to Democratic activists fed up by what they viewed as the president's ceding of ground to the GOP on tax cuts and other issues while the economy has stalled and unemployment is stuck above 9 percent.

Obama said 2012 would be an especially tough election because people are discouraged and disillusioned with government, but he also said he was determined because so much is at stake.

The GOP alternative, Obama said, is "an approach to government that will fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century."

At an event in Woodside, Calif., Obama took a direct shot at one of his potential GOP opponents, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Without mentioning him by name Obama mocked Perry as "a governor whose state is on fire, denying climate change."

Obama also criticized the audience reactions at recent GOP presidential debates, including people booing a gay service member. Said the president, "That's not reflective of who we are."

Obama got a friendly welcome from invited guests. But he was also met by scattered demonstrations from liberal activists.

"We want to see Obama stand up as strongly as he can to fight for the people of this country who are working out there to make ends meet," said Kathy Cummings, communications director for the Washington State Labor Council. The council helped organize a demonstration outside Seattle's Paramount Theatre, the site of an Obama fundraiser with about 1,800 guests. An activist's sign urged Obama, "Tax the rich."

Obama and the Republican presidential candidates are working overtime to raise campaign cash ahead of an important Sept. 30 reporting deadline that will give a snapshot of their financial strength.

Obama's West Coast fundraisers brought in the Silicon Valley and Hollywood elite. The last event of the night Sunday was at the Atherton, Calif., home of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

The expected haul from all seven events: $4 million or more.

In addition to the fundraising, Obama scheduled a town hall-style event Monday in Silicon Valley, hosted by social networking company LinkedIn. The trip ends Tuesday with a speech to supporters in Denver.

Obama was pushing throughout for his job proposal, which combines tax cuts, unemployment benefits and public works spending. The bill faces a hostile reception on Capitol Hill, particularly because Obama wants to pay for it with tax increases opposed by Republicans.

If he can't persuade Congress to pass the bill, Obama has said he wants to make sure the public knows who's standing in the way.

Jobs are a major concern in California, where unemployment stands at 12.1 percent, highest of any state except Nevada.

Mark DiCamillo, director of California's Field Poll, said that's contributed to a softening of support for Obama among Democratic and independent voters. Obama's job approval rating dropped to 46 percent among Californians in a Field Poll this month. Among Democrats it was 69 percent, but that was down 10 percentage points from June.

"Californians voted for him by 24 points in 2008 and the Democrats and nonpartisans were the backbone of his support and he's losing some of that now," DiCamillo said. "They're looking for Obama to do something."

The summer's nasty debate over raising the government's borrowing limit turned off voters. Many liberals bemoaned the deal that cleared the way for a higher debt ceiling, with Obama agreeing to Republican demands for steep budget cuts without new taxes.

But Democratic supporters are heartened by the jobs plan and Obama's insistence that Congress must raise taxes to pay for it. Now they're hoping that the confrontational Obama they're seeing now is the same one they'll see through the 2012 campaign.

"We wish that his fighting spirit had been there a few months ago, but it's here now," said Rick Jacobs, head of the Courage Campaign, a progressive online organizing network in California.

This program aired on September 26, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


More from WBUR

Listen Live