At basketball fundraiser, Obama says opponents play "dirty"

New York Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:01pm EDT

1 of 5. U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at Canyon Springs High School in Las Vegas, Nevada August 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

New York (Reuters) - With a nod to his basketball star host, Michael Jordan, President Barack Obama used a sports analogy at a fundraiser in New York on Wednesday to describe the election campaign and his opponents, who he said played "dirty."

"I can't resist a basketball analogy. We are in the fourth quarter, we're up by a few points, but the other side is coming strong and they play a little dirty," Obama told a group of supporters, saying his team was ahead but had some injuries.

"I'd say there's about seven minutes to go in the game. And Michael's competitiveness is legendary, and nobody knows better than Michael that if you've got a little bit of a lead and there's about seven minutes to go, that's when you put them away."

Obama and his presidential rival, Republican Mitt Romney, have been locked in an increasingly negative campaign for months and both sides have accused the other of divisive moves.

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is raising more money from donors than Obama and has greater support from outside groups known as "Super PACs," which have poured millions into negative advertising before the November 6 election.

Obama, an avid basketball player himself, joked that Jordan, a former star player for Obama's hometown Chicago Bulls, and the other players at the event were dwarfing his star power.

"It is very rare that I come to an event where I'm like the fifth or sixth most interesting person," he said, drawing laughter, after being introduced by Jordan.

"Usually, the folks want to take a picture with or sit next to me, or talk to me -- that has not been the case at this event, and I completely understand it."

About 120 people attended the fundraising dinner, dubbed the "Obama Classic," at a cost of $20,000 a person. After the dinner, Obama was expected to don gym clothes and shoot hoops. (Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney)