President Barack Obama on Thursday used his home town of Chicago as the backdrop to formally kick off fundraising for his 2012 re-election campaign. The president told supporters they need to help him "finish the job" he began when he was elected in 2008, and he fired some political shots at opposition Republicans.
Though he formally filed papers a week ago confirming his candidacy, and his major fiscal policy speech this week was in part a political speech, Obama returned to his home town for what amounted to the formal kick off his campaign.
President Obama appeared at three events, two at restaurants and another at the famous Navy Pier in Chicago, and supporters paid between $100 and $38,500 to hear him speak - money that was to flow to his re-election campaign.
At the largest event before about 2,300 people the president listed accomplishments during his first two years in office, including passage of health care reform and drawing down U.S. military operations in Iraq.
Pointing to unfinished work on issues such as climate change and immigration reform, he appealed to supporters to help him finish the job he began in 2008.
"We didn’t come here tonight just to pat ourselves on the back, we came here tonight because we know that for all the progress we have made we still have business to do," he said. "We are not finished. And the only way we are going to finish is the same way we began this journey, and that is together."
As he spoke, back in Washington the House of Representatives and the Senate approved and sent to the president's desk legislation, the product of Obama's latest compromise with Republicans, that cuts current year spending by about $38 billion.
In Chicago, the president said Republican budget proposals would harm the economy and result in higher health care costs for the elderly. He said there is a need to build on compromise, but not sacrifice key priorities.
"We can't compromise on our investments to grow, the investments we need to create jobs," he said. "We have got to reform defense spending, we have got to reform health care spending, but we are not going to sacrifice our fundamental commitment that we make to one another through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, the safety net for our people."
His Chicago appearances came as the field of confirmed and likely Republican candidates for 2012 continued to grow. It now includes former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
In remarks to a Republican women's group in New Hampshire on Thursday, Barbour criticized the president on everything from his health care reform law to his 2012 budget, asserting Mr. Obama favors bigger and more expensive government.
"The Obama administration has limitless faith in unlimited government. And the average American understands that bigger government means a smaller economy," he said.
On Capitol Hill on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans succeeded in fundamentally shifting the political debate, and criticized Obama for his opposition to any further extensions of Bush-era tax cuts.
"Raising taxes on the very people that we expect to invest in our economy and create jobs is the wrong move. Washington does not have a revenue problem, Washington has a spending problem," he said.
Political analysts predict that President Obama may raise well over $1 billion, which would be a record, for his 2012 re-election campaign, exceeding the $774 million he brought in on the way to winning the White House in 2008.
Obama told supporters in Chicago that while his campaign is now in its early stages, he will be fully engaged in the 2012 race and "ready to go". He will be ramping up his travel in coming weeks and months with additional trips to states that could determine whether he wins a second term as president.