Obama chides Republicans, backs California senator

* Obama makes second trip to support Boxer

* President heckled about policy on gays in the military

By Jeff Mason

SAN FRANCISCO, May 25 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama
chided Republicans and joked about his own unpopularity on
Tuesday while raising money for a California senator whose
support he needs to advance his policy agenda.

Obama journeyed to San Francisco to raise campaign cash for
Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is battling to win a fourth term in
November congressional elections.

“I don’t travel for just anybody,” Obama said at the first
of three fundraising events on his second trip to California
for Boxer, a sign of the importance he puts on getting her
re-elected in what is normally a safe state for Democratic
candidates.

The events were expected to raise $600,000 specifically for
Boxer and $1.1 million for Democratic Senate candidates.

Like his last trip, Obama had to defend his
administration’s pace at changing the U.S. military’s “don’t
ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents gays and lesbians from
serving openly in the military.

“Move faster on ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,'” a man in the
audience shouted, interrupting the president. The White House
on Monday backed a proposal that would move toward repeal of
the ban.

Obama spent a big part of his remarks criticizing
Republicans for leading the country into an economic mess
before his election and working against him now in Congress.

“I understand the strategy of sitting on the sidelines,”
Obama said. “Politically it hasn’t been bad for them. It made a
lot of people forget how we got into this mess in the first
place — just sitting there and saying ‘no’ to everything.”

The president met with Senate Republicans earlier on
Tuesday, encouraging them to help him tackle immigration and
energy reform. [ID:nN25156927]

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Obama hopes his efforts to paint Republicans as unhelpful
in tackling the country’s economic woes will resonate in the
November polls despite a tricky environment for Democrats with
a U.S. jobless rate of 9.9 percent.

Democrats hold strong majorities in the Senate and the
House of Representatives and are likely to lose seats in both.

An average of recent polls by realclearpolitics.com showed
Boxer in a tight race with two potential Republican opponents,
former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina and former
congressman Tom Campbell.

California Republicans will choose between them and
conservative Tea Party candidate Chuck Devore in a June 8
primary election that will determine who challenges Boxer.

Obama drew fire from Republicans for leaving Washington
during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis. The president is
traveling to the Louisiana Gulf on Friday. [ID:nN25220035]

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Amber
Marchand said: “While the president makes time to fly across
the country to rake in campaign cash for struggling Democrats
like Barbara Boxer, today’s trip comes at a special cost for
residents of the Gulf Coast region who want the president’s
full attention on this enormous problem.”

Obama stressed his concern about the spill in his remarks.

“Nobody is more upset than me because ultimately, like any
president, when this happens on your watch, then every day you
are thinking, ‘How does this get solved?'” he said.

The president joked about his declining popularity since
taking office — a fact that Republicans seek to exploit.

“Some folks say, ‘Well, you know he’s not as cool as he
was,” Obama said, noting his image now had a “Hitler mustache”
on some political posters. “That’s quite a change,” he said.

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(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Bill
Trott)

Obama chides Republicans, backs California senator