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Posted at 07:16 AM ET, 08/09/2011

Obama: 2012 campaign will be ‘more profound debate’ than 2008

President Obama used a pair of fundraising events Monday night to warn supporters that next year’s election will be “even more consequential” than 2008 because he and his Republican rivals are presenting visions for the country that are “even starker now than they were before.”

After a day in which political leaders blamed each other for the largest single-day drop in the stock market in three years, Obama attended fundraisers at the Washington home of developer R. Donahue Peebles and at the St. Regis Hotel.

The president said his administration had stabilized the country after taking office in the midst of a recession, but he acknowledged a lot of work remains until the recovery can be called complete. And he alluded to the past month of partisan fighting over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction.

“They’ve got a very different vision,” Obama told the crowd of about 140 at Peebles’ house, according to a transcript provided by the White House. “And as a consequence of this debt-ceiling debacle being behind us now, what we’re going to have is 16 months in which we debate this vision for America. And it’s going to be as fundamental a debate as 2008. In some ways, it may be even a more profound debate, because the contrast is going to be clearer and it’s going to be sharp.”

Attendees paid $15,000 for access to the Peebles event, which included a photo with the president. The money will be divided between Obama’s 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

About 60 people attended the St. Regis event, which was described by a DNC official as “an outreach to donors and potential donors.”

Obama, who had canceled several fundraisers in July to remain in Washington for the debate over how to raise the debt limit, raised more than half a million dollars Monday night, according to a source familiar with the event.

Peebles, a millionaire who flirted with running for mayor of Washington last year, was a member of Obama’s 2008 campaign finance committee. He said the crowd Monday night remains “very supportive of the president,” despite the political gridlock.

Many in the room “felt the debt ceiling issue was overplayed, that it was more dramatic than necessary,” Peebles said. “People are sensing more and more that the debates going on and the fighting taking place on the Republican side is not really a commitment to improve America. It’s a political strategy meant to develop a narrative against the administration at the country’s expense.”

But Peebles conceded that the Republicans have been “very disciplined in their message and their focus and their agenda,” which he said is something Democrats need to work on.

“Democrats need to have the same focus,” he said.

Obama joked that he got a few “little dings here and there from some of the battles we’ve been fighting.”

The country has some dings, too. On Friday, the Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit rating from AAA to AA+ for the first time in history.

Asked if the Democrats are demoralized by the bruising the president has taken, Peebles said: “The last couple months, with the debt crisis and the S & P change, should moblize and galvanize support from those sitting on the sidelines.”

By  |  07:16 AM ET, 08/09/2011

 
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