Working to fill campaign coffers for House Democrats, President Barack Obama poked fun at Republicans on Monday for placing an election-year focus on the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and his namesake health care law rather than on issues he deemed more serious.
Standing between two flags in a white tent erected outside a supporter's sprawling home, Obama pointed the finger at the GOP and charged his political opponents with employing an election strategy based around making Americans cynical, angry and suspicious enough that they vote for Republicans in the next election.
"The debate we're having right now is about what, Benghazi? Obamacare? It becomes this endless loop," said an incredulous Obama. "It's not serious. It's not speaking to the real concerns that people have."
It was a rare moment where the president's frustration with the GOP's incessant focus on his political weaknesses bubbled to the surface.
Republicans have spent recent weeks pummeling Obama and his administration over the 2012 attack in Libya that took place on Obama's watch. For Obama, the renewed focus on Benghazi, where four Americans died, only replaces one headache with another; until recently, Republicans had been laser-focused on pushing repeal of Obama's unpopular health law as a way to score points with voters in November.
It's not true that Democrats are behaving as unreasonably as Republicans, Obama insisted, adding that the GOP has been "captured" by a group that's unserious and ineffective.
"I hate to be blunt about it, but that's the play," Obama told about 65 supporters who paid up to $32,400 per couple for a chance to have dinner with the president. Joining them were a list of bold-named Democratic figures, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
This is the fifth time Obama has made the money pitch for House Democrats this year — one of more than 20 fundraisers Obama has agreed to do through the summer for Democratic-aligned campaign groups.
Democrats are anxiously working to protect their fragile majority in the Senate, and would need a net gain of 17 seats this year to seize the majority from Republicans. But a combination of Obama's low approval ratings, an unfavorable electoral map and historical trends are all working against Democrats to dampen the party's prospects in November.
To that end, Obama was careful not to raise Democrats' hopes too high. Rather than urging donors to pony up big so Democrats can win back control of the House, Obama offered a more modest goal:
"We've got to make sure that Democrats are making progress this midterm," he said.
© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.