- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

President Obama is stepping up his fundraising efforts as the midterm elections draw closer and Democrats seek money to battle a Republican Party energized in part by voter concerns over government spending and regulations.

Mr. Obama spoke Wednesday at a sandwich shop in Edison, N.J., to tout a lending initiative aimed at small businesses. From there he traveled to New York to tape an interview with the daytime TV talk show “The View” and attend two big-ticket fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.

The president is headlining four Democratic fundraisers in three days and hosting another four events next week. For now, he’s playing it safe, holding the eight events in noncompetitive states or in a competitive place where he’s sure to be embraced - his home state of Illinois.

White House officials say Mr. Obama will campaign vigorously throughout the nation ahead of the fall elections.

“The fall campaign boils down to a choice between those who want to keep moving forward and those that want to take us back to the policies that got us into this mess,” said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. “The president will help make that case across the country.”

Wednesday’s fundraisers in New York were closed to the media, as was a similar event Tuesday night in Washington. White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One that the fundraisers are closed because Mr. Obama will not be making formal remarks.

When asked about the image of Mr. Obama’s attending two high-dollar fundraisers while much of the country is still struggling with the recession, Mr. Burton said, “Obviously, we’re focused on the economy today. This evening, the president is doing what the president traditionally does, which is helping to raise money for the campaign season as things approach.”

Mr. Obama’s election-year argument is taking shape: Despite unemployment that continues to hover near 10 percent, he wants voters to make a choice in November between his policies, which he says are pointing the country in the right direction, and those of the GOP, which he maintains led the country into recession in the first place.

Separately, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine on Wednesday trotted out a new line of attack in the bid to limit potential GOP gains, claiming Republican goals are inseparable from those of the “tea party” movement, from killing off Medicare to abolishing the departments of Education and Energy.

Republicans brushed off Mr. Kaine’s attack and struck back at the Democrats who run Washington, saying their “arrogant agenda” has so frustrated voters that they want a new party in charge.

In a press briefing, Mr. Kaine portrayed the November elections as a choice between his party, which has put into law a health care overhaul and tougher Wall Street rules, and a GOP-tea party combination that wants to roll back Democratic accomplishments.

“The Republican Party agenda has become the tea party agenda, and vice versa,” Mr. Kaine said.

Democrats cited tea party activists’ statements and GOP support as they introduced a “Republican-Tea Party Contract On America,” a send-up of the 1994 GOP Contract With America that helped Republicans win control of the House for the first time in four decades.

“We’re determined to make sure Americans understand this,” Mr. Kaine said.

Katie Wright, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, contended that Democrats “have failed to understand that the mounting voter frustration heading to the polls this fall is a direct result of the arrogant agenda that brought us bailouts, takeovers and a skyrocketing deficit.”

She said the Democrats’ strategy “appears to be attacking voters, as opposed to listening to them.”

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