UPDATE 1-Obama slams Republicans in West Coast money swing

Mon Sep 26, 2011 12:17am EDT

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* (Adds quotes, California stops, previous SEATTLE)

By Alister Bull

ATHERTON, Calif., Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama harshly criticized Republican opponents on Sunday as he began a West Coast fundraising tour, accusing them of "ideological pushback" at a time of national crisis.

In a swing likely to net his campaign several million dollars, the Democratic president deployed a newly combative tone to fire up core supporters.

"From the moment that I took office, what we've seen is a constant ideological pushback against any kind of sensible reforms that would make our economy work better and give people more opportunity," Obama said at his first stop in Seattle.

He needs the enthusiasm and financial backing of his base -- many of whom have voiced disappointment at his readiness to accommodate Republican demands -- to improve his chances of succeeding in his 2012 re-election bid.

Speaking at the home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley, Obama said he had hoped "because we were in a crisis, the other side would respond by saying now is the time for all of us to pull together. ... That was not the decision they made."

Republicans won big in 2010 congressional elections by campaigning against his policies, which they blame for driving up the U.S. deficit without providing promised jobs. They have fought Obama all this year to curb federal spending.

Obama was greeted enthusiastically as he began to speak in Shirley's ultra-modernist home before about 65 people paying $35,800 per couple. At his second stop, 1,750 supporters paid to listen to him at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle.

Several hundred Democratic activists, frustrated with Obama, held a rally to call for job creation, higher taxes on the wealthy and protection of the Social Security and Medicare government programs for the elderly.

"I voted for him. I walked the streets for him. But now I'm confused," said Karen Pooley, 48, who is fighting to ward off foreclosure on her two-bedroom home in Seattle.

FUNDRAISING SPRINT

Obama is building an impressive war chest to finance what is shaping up to be a tight and expensive race for the White House next year.

He is cramming in seven fundraisers during the West Coast swing that descended later on Sunday on California's Silicon Valley, the heart of America's high-tech industry. He visits San Diego and Los Angeles on Monday.

Mocking Texas Governor Rick Perry, a top contender to win the Republican nomination to face him next year, Obama told a group of 350 at the home of Symantec Corp (SYMC.O) Chairman John Thomson that the current Republican party had "puzzled" some of its longtime supporters.

"You've got a governor (Perry) whose state is on fire, denying climate change. You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have healthcare," he said, referring to recent televised Republican debates.

He later spoke under a tent at the home of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, whose 70 guests included pop singer Lady Gaga, and told them that "2012 was an even more important election" than the one in 2008.

MONEY ROLLING IN

Obama's approval ratings have been hurt by worry over the stubbornly high U.S. unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, and fears the country could face another recession. His numbers have even sagged in California, which went for him heavily in the 2008 election.

So far, that has not dented Obama's ability to raise amounts that dwarf the fundraising of his Republican foes at this point in the election race.

Obama chalked up $86 million in the second quarter on behalf of his own campaign and for the Democratic Party.

That was nearly five times as much as Mitt Romney, the top Republican fundraiser. Romney and Perry are the front-runners in the race for their party's 2012 presidential nomination.

Campaigns do not have to release third-quarter fundraising totals until Oct. 15, but the president's campaign team has announced a more modest third-quarter goal of $55 million.

The lower amount partly reflects the impact of Obama being grounded in Washington during July by budget battles, limiting his ability to get out and raise money.

It could also show the pinch of the tough economy over the summer, as stocks slumped out of fear the government would fail to raise the U.S. debt limit and default on its obligations.

On Monday, Obama will sample Hollywood glamour at two events in Los Angeles, which feted him during his 2008 run, although some celebrities have voiced frustration his presidency has not lived up to their expectations.

Fundraising in California makes sense for the president, who raised $78 million in the state for his 2008 campaign -- 10 percent of all donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. (Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington and Nicole Neroulias in Seattle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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