By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — President Barack Obama sounded a nostalgic personal note Sunday night and offered a rare self-assessment while criticizing congressional Republicans as an "impediment" to governing during the start of a West Coast fundraising tour for the Democratic Party.
Obama told donors the sight of Mt. Rainier illuminated by a setting sun was particularly special because it reminded him of his mother, who attended high school in the Seattle area. "I feel the spirit of my mom," he said.
He also attempted to contrast himself with Republicans who control the House of Representatives, saying they are "more focused on positioning themselves for the next election."
"I'm not a particularly ideological person," he said, adding he still is passionate about giving people a fair shake, about the environment, and working for peace and national security. "But I'm pretty pragmatic about how we get there."
Money, star power and Hollywood awaited the president on this trip, which featured a bit of official business, but mostly fundraising for a Democratic Party eager to go on offense after a politically debilitating two months.
Obama arrived Sunday evening in Seattle. He also planned stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, raising money for House and Senate Democrats as well as the national party.
High-profile events on the schedule include a reception at the home of retired basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson and his wife, Cookie, in Beverly Hills, Calif., and one at the house of Marta Kauffman, co-creator of television's "Friends."
Accompanied by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Obama attended a reception and dinner Sunday at the home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley.
Though he professed he was not looking for the defeat of another party, he said the country needs Pelosi to be House speaker again.
The money raised — $32,400 per couple — went to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which benefits House Democrats.
"In the year before an election like this, I think the most tangible way that an incumbent president of either party, frankly, can benefit his party's prospects in congressional races is to try to help them raise money," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier. "And I would anticipate that the president's efforts on that front will continue into next year."
The trip comes as Obama's health care law approaches a crucial Nov. 30 deadline for an improved insurance enrollment website whose catastrophic start Oct. 1 dealt a serious political blow to the White House. Also, the U.S. and other world powers just sealed a historic deal with Iran for a temporary freeze of its nuclear program.
In addition to a half-dozen fundraisers, Obama intended to use the trip to keep the heat on Congress to pass an overhaul of immigration laws. He planned to address that issue during a stop Monday at a Chinese recreation center in San Francisco, and to promote his economic agenda Tuesday at the DreamWorks Animation studio in Glendale, Calif.
In recent days White House officials have tried to draw attention back to the economy to avoid getting bogged down by the botched launch of the health care enrollment.
Lately, Obama has devoted time to raising money for the party, helping the Democratic National Committee reduce a massive 2012 debt and build up cash for House and Senate Democratic Committees.
The White House has been especially attentive to Senate Democrats to ensure that the party retains its majority in the chamber. The House is controlled by the Republican Party.
In addition to the dinner at Shirley's home, Obama also attended a Democratic National Committee event Sunday at the home of Tom Campion, co-founder of the clothing chain Zumiez. Unlike the dinner at Shirley's house, reporters were not permitted into the fundraiser.
The event attracted about 30 donors, the DNC said. Tickets also were $32,400 per couple, according to an invitation.
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