Obama sees political opportunity in debt crisis

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says there’s some good news from the bitterly partisan debt debate — it made people so frustrated with Washington that Democrats will be able to draw a clear divide with Republicans heading into the 2012 election.

The president said Monday that the public thought divided government might make some sense — but not dysfunctional government. And he said he thinks they’re not persuaded by what he described as the Republican strategy of slashing spending on social programs.

“They’re not buying that bill of goods,” Obama said at a campaign event.

“The good news is that I think there has been enough frustration at Washington, sort of reached a fevered pitch last week, that we’re now looking at 16 months in which there’s going to be a clear contrast and a clear choice,” he said.

He described the upcoming election as even more consequential than the 2008 contest that catapulted him into the White House, saying that more is at stake, and “The alternative visions being presented are even starker now than I think they were before.”

The president spoke at two Democratic National Committee events Monday night in Washington. He made reference at both to tough days in the stock market plunge that took a dive Monday, saying that markets go up and down, and even before the turmoil it was clear the recovery wasn’t happening fast enough.

“We’ve had a couple of very difficult days in the stock market, but the truth of the matter is, is that the challenges go beyond the stock market,” he said.

Obama also expressed some pessimism about whether Congress would be able to get anything done to create jobs or improve the economy.

“Whether we’re going to see any progress out of this Congress right now — because so far we haven’t seen much when it comes to innovative ideas to actually put people to work and grow the economy — remains to be seen,” the president said.

At his first event Monday Obama addressed some 140 guests at the home of developer R. Donahue “Don” Peebles and Katrina Peebles with tickets priced at $15,000 per family to benefit the Obama Victory Fund. Later in the evening he spoke at a small donor outreach event at the ritzy St. Regis hotel.

Obama is returning to a regular schedule of frequent fundraiser after taking weeks off dealing with the debt crisis. Last week he appeared at fundraisers in Chicago to mark his 50th birthday, but apart from those, Monday’s events marked only his second fundraising outing since June. As a result of the slowdown his campaign says it does not expect to raise as much in the summer months as it did during the spring — although Obama retains a substantial money edge over any potential GOP rival in the forming Republican field.

More fundraising is on tap when the president travels to New York City on Thursday. Obama raised a record $750 million in his 2008 presidential bid and could likely exceed that this time around.