SAN JOSE, Calif. — Republicans might want to turn the 2012 presidential campaign into a referendum on President Obama’s handling of the economy, but he has other ideas.

At a San Jose, Calif., fundraiser Sunday night, the president sought to cast the campaign as a “contest of values.” He then proceeded to offer a pointed critique of the values on display by his Republican rivals — and their supporters.

“Has anybody been watching the debates lately?” Obama asked a crowd of about 300 at the home of Symantec Chairman John Thompson and his wife, Sandi. “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.”

The president was referring to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose state has been ravaged by wildfires that have been so bad that Obama called him a few weeks ago to offer federal assistance.

At a debate Sept. 7, Perry said this when asked about man-made climate change: “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense. Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Obama wasn’t finished. Next, he went after the conservative audiences that attended recent debates.

“You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay,” Obama said.

Here, the president was referencing moments during a Sept. 12 CNN and Tea Party Express debate and a Sept. 22 debate sponsored by Fox News and Google.

Obama’s pointed rhetoric comes as he tries to reenergize his base in the wake of falling national approval ratings over his handling of the economy. As we reported in Monday’s Washington Post newspaper, Obama is making a three-day, three-state West Coast swing to raise campaign cash and push his $447 billion American Jobs Act.

The president has been growing tougher in tone as he barnstorms the country to win public support for his jobs package.

At Thompson’s home, where donors paid at least $2,500 apiece to attend, Obama summed up his take on Republican values: “That’s not reflective of who we are. This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country. 2008 was an important election. 2012 is a more important election.”


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