President Obama labeled the recession a result of "a decade of irresponsibility" under Republicans, stepping up his effort to draw sharp distinctions between Democrats and the GOP ahead of November's elections.
In a stop at an electric vehicle plant in Kansas City, Mo., and campaign events for Senate candidates in Missouri and Nevada, the president said Thursday that Republicans have not learned the lessons of their time in power and can't be trusted again with the reins of government.
"They are peddling that same snake oil that they've been peddling now for years, and somehow they think you will have forgotten that it didn't work. Well, we did kick them out because it wasn't working," Mr. Obama said in Missouri as he raised money for the Democrats' likely Senate nominee, Robin Carnahan.
Mr. Obama increasingly has painted November's congressional elections as a choice between staying his course or returning to the policies Republicans championed under President George W. Bush.
Though unemployment still hovers just below 10 percent, Mr. Obama said, his policies - including the $862 billion Recovery Act and small-business tax breaks - have moved the nation "in the right direction," and he touted the fact that the economy has added private-sector jobs for the past six months.
But polls show most Americans don't think the stimulus act has been effective enough. Mr. Obama has found himself in recent weeks defending the first round of spending and pushing for Congress to pass still more spending that he says will keep teachers on the job and provide benefits for the unemployed.
Those calls have run into problems on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are increasingly joining the GOP in blocking expanded spending.
The Congressional Budget Office this week said the annual deficit has topped $1 trillion, with three months still to go in the fiscal year. That's slightly lower than last year's record pace, but still on track to be the second-highest deficit in history.
Mr. Obama is on a two-day fundraising swing for Democratic Senate candidates Mrs. Carnahan in Missouri and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.
Campaigns have requested varying levels of involvement from Mr. Obama, with some eager for his help and others who've said they'd prefer to hit the stump on their own. Mrs. Carnahan and Mr. Reid are among the most frequent beneficiaries of Mr. Obama's campaign efforts.
Mrs. Carnahan's Republican opponent, Republican Rep. Roy Blunt, said he thinks the president's pit stop in battleground Missouri hurts the Democrat's standing among the state's voters.
"I believe he's helping me more than her," Mr. Blunt told local reporters Thursday.
As Mr. Obama's approval ratings have dipped below 50 percent, he has adopted Mr. Bush's frequent line that he is not governing based on opinion surveys but on his campaign promises.
"Well, I've got my own pollsters. I know it doesn't poll well. But it's the right thing to do for America. And so we go ahead and do it," he said.
As the president's approval ratings have fallen, he has shifted his strategy to arguing that the Republican alternative is even worse.
"We don't have to guess how the other party will govern, because we're still living with the results from the last time," he said.
The GOP has given Mr. Obama plenty of ammunition for ridicule in recent weeks, from one top House Republican's apology to BP PLC to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner's remark that the president's financial regulation bill is like "killing an ant with a nuclear weapon."
"The worst crisis since the Great Depression he calls an 'ant,' " Mr. Obama said. "You've got to make a movie: The Ant That Ate the Economy."
The Ohio Republican fired back, telling Mr. Obama he should be focused on jobs, "but the president keeps whining and indulging in childish partisan attacks. How out of touch can he get?"
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