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Obama: Election 'make-or-break moment' for America

By Alexander Mooney, CNN
updated 4:34 PM EDT, Fri March 16, 2012
President Obama returned to Chicago Friday to campaign and fundraise.
President Obama returned to Chicago Friday to campaign and fundraise.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Barack Obama kicks off fundraising blitz in hometown of Chicago
  • Obam: GOP thinks country is better off "when everyone writes their own rules"
  • Obama speech follows Vice President Joe Biden's first major campaign speech
  • President mentions Republican primaries on Tuesday, negativity of GOP campaign

Chicago (CNN) -- Kicking off a five-stop fundraising blitz in his hometown of Chicago on Friday, President Barack Obama contrasted his policies with those of the Republican presidential candidates, declaring to a ballroom of supporters that November's election will mark a "make-or-break moment" for America.

"They have a simple philosophy: We are better off when everybody is left on their own, when everybody writes their own rules," the president said of his GOP opponents without identifying them by name. "They are wrong."

The midday event drew approximately 600 supporters to an upscale Chicago hotel, each of whom paid at least $2,500 to attend. It comes as the president's re-election effort appears to be ramping up its public face amid a Republican nominating contest with no clear end in sight.

Obama jabs GOP candidates in Chicago
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On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden was dispatched to Ohio to rally supporters there while the president's campaign released a Hollywood-polished, 17-minute campaign video touting Obama's first three years in office.

The president himself has largely kept his campaign machinations behind closed doors, delivering few overtly re-election-focused speeches while raising most of his campaign cash at private high-dollar events where television cameras are not allowed.

But the Chicago event is one of two large-scale fundraisers open to cameras Friday, the other coming several hours later in Atlanta. Three other events Friday, one in Chicago and two in Atlanta, are closed to the media. In all, the president is expected to raise well north of $5 million before he returns to the White House on Friday night.

During his 25-minute remarks, Obama ticked through the accomplishments his campaign intends to emphasize throughout the coming months, including the bailout of the auto industry, equal pay for women, the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and drawing down the war in Iraq. The president also praised perhaps his most controversial action, the institution of universal health care.

Still, the president appeared to acknowledge that much of the energy that fueled his resounding 2008 victory has not returned at the same level this year.

"Some of you rolled up those Hope posters, and they are in the closet somewhere," he told the polite though not overly energetic crowd. "But I am more determined and more confident that what drove us in 2008 is the right thing for America."

Meanwhile, the president largely steered clear of referencing his GOP opponents directly, save for an offhand mention of the primary to be held in this state Tuesday.

"Apparently, things haven't wrapped up on the other side," Obama said to laughter. "My message to all the candidates is, 'Welcome to the Land of Lincoln.' Because maybe some Lincoln will rub off of them while they are here."

Romney, Santorum divide time in Puerto Rico, Illinois

Obama also appeared to poke fun at the negativity that has characterized the Republican nominating battle of late.

"You might be watching some of the avalanche of attack ads and be thinking this is not appealing to the better angels of our nature, but hope springs eternal," he said.

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