- Associated Press - Monday, August 16, 2010

MILWAUKEE | Covering thousands of miles to reap millions of dollars, President Obama was in full campaign mode Monday in a bid to help his party retain power, repeatedly offering one familiar argument: Republicans don’t solve problems.

“Don’t give in to fear,” Mr. Obama said Monday in his latest ominous vision of a country led by the opposition party. “Let’s reach for hope.”

Mr. Obama has settled on his message for the pivotal midterm elections, which means what he said Monday in Milwaukee will sound like what he says Tuesday in Seattle and Wednesday in Miami. He is covering more than 8,000 freewheeling miles in three days, the kind of personal attention that gets donors to the door.

This week offers not just a window for Mr. Obama to campaign - Congress is gone, his summer vacation awaits - but also a window into his thinking about the fall campaign. Despite deep voter impatience over the sickly economy, the White House is betting people will stick with Democrats if the choice is framed as one between those who act and those who obstruct.

On Monday, he warned of reliving a dreadful past, saying Republicans want voters “to be afraid of the future.”

“The worst thing we could do is to go back to the very same policies that created this mess in the first place,” Mr. Obama said at a fundraiser in Wisconsin. “In November, you’re going to have that choice.”

Mr. Obama has advanced all the big parts of his agenda - the massive stimulus spending bill, the health care overhaul, the rewriting of rules for Wall Street - with little or no Republican support on Capitol Hill. Republicans counter that the president’s policies have come at a huge cost to taxpayers far into the future without the payoff many voters want most: jobs.

In Milwaukee, Mr. Obama spoke at a basketball arena to raise money for the state Democratic Party and for Tom Barrett, the city mayor who is running for governor in a competitive race. Campaign officials refused to say how much Mr. Obama raised. Lunch tickets cost $250, but getting a photo with the president could be had for a $10,000 donation.

By Monday evening, Mr. Obama was in Los Angeles for a glitzy fundraiser that was expected to raise $1 million for Democratic congressional candidates. The event was hosted by television producer John Wells, whose hits include “The West Wing.” Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. founder Jeffrey Katzenberg were among the hosts, but were not expected to attend the event because of schedule conflicts. The event, which also featured House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, included ticket packages that cost $30,400 per couple.

The president also is raising money over the next two days for Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio and the Florida Democratic Party.

Democrats, particularly House candidates facing tough races, have been clamoring for Mr. Obama to get more aggressive. But that comes at some risk for a president who pledged to change Washington’s tone as a candidate, then recommitted to doing it in his second year as president after acknowledging he was unsuccessful in the first.

When asked whether Mr. Obama was exacerbating the same partisanship he pledged to end, White House spokesman Bill Burton was unapologetic, saying certain moments help make the choice stark for voters.

“The president,” he said, “is happy to showcase those moments.”