President Barack Obama rallied his party faithful on Thursday _ and took their campaign donations _ while telling them that he understands their frustration that Washington hasn’t changed during the first year of his presidency.
Returning to campaign mode at two Democratic events aimed at raising $2 million to $3 million, Obama ticked off a list of accomplishments during his first year in office and asked supporters to stand with him as he tackles campaign promises he has been slow to deliver on.
“In ways large and small, we’ve begun to deliver on the change that you believed in,” Obama said at the first event.
But he acknowledged it’s hardly been the year his most ardent supporters had expected.
“I know some of you might feel discouraged because changing the ways of Washington is hard. It’s harder than a lot of you thought it might be. Sometimes it may make you feel … that it’s not possible. You might want to give up,” Obama said.
“Don’t give up.”
He again listed his victories during a smaller fundraiser that drew basketball star Dikembe Mutombo to the crowd and decried Republicans who are blocking Obama’s agenda.
“You know the American people are right to be frustrated about a Washington where every day is Election Day and the basic theory is ‘If you lose, I win,’” Obama said.
Democratic energy, though, is hard to match their across-the-aisle opponents. Just before Obama’s motorcade left the White House, Republican Sen. Scott Brown was sworn in to the Senate seat from Massachusetts held for decades by Edward M. Kennedy. Republicans also celebrated gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey last November.
That momentum has given Republicans across the nation a sense of optimism that prompted candidates for positions once thought solidly Democratic.
A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But there is a narrow path by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.
First-term presidents typically suffer losses to their party. The Republicans would have to gain 40 seats in the 435-member House, 10 in the 100-member Senate.
“I don’t want you to feel discouraged. I want you to understand that we’ve got to push that much harder,” said Obama, whose top domestic priority of a health care overhaul is stalled on Capitol Hill.
The president made his latest health care pitch a personal one, telling a story of a campaign volunteer who died of breast cancer after putting off needed medical exams she couldn’t afford it. He said the woman fought to get him elected so that others would have better health insurance.
“How can I say to her, ‘You know what? We’re giving up,’” he said.
Still, Obama said Congress should keep its focus on putting Americans back to work, not the health care overhaul that faced a setback with Brown’s move to Washington.