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Obama heads west to raise cash, energize liberals

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SEATTLE (AP) — President Barack Obama is trying out his newly combative message on the liberal West Coast, aiming to re-energize faithful Democratic voters who have grown increasingly disenchanted with him.

The trip, which began Sunday and includes fundraisers from Seattle to Hollywood and San Diego, comes as Obama has shifted from seeking compromise with Republicans on Capitol Hill to calling out U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and others by name. The president has criticized them as obstructionists and demanded their help in passing his $447 billion jobs bill.

This approach is a relief to Democratic activists fed up by what they viewed as the president's ceding of ground to the GOP on tax cuts and other issues when the economy has stalled and unemployment is stuck above 9 percent.

Obama's three-day trip offers him the chance to try to reassure some of his most liberal and deep-pocketed supporters with his aggressive new message as the 2012 campaign revs up.

He probably can look forward to a friendly welcome from invited fundraiser guests, including at private events with ticket prices as high as the $35,800 maximum. But liberal activists were making plans to greet Obama along the way with demonstrations criticizing his policies or reminding him they want him to do more.

"We want to see Obama stand up as strongly as he can to fight for the people of this country who are working out there to make ends meet," said Kathy Cummings, communications director for the Washington State Labor Council. The council was helping organize a demonstration outside Seattle's Paramount Theater, the site of an Obama fundraiser Sunday.

Obama and the Republican presidential candidates are working overtime to raise campaign cash ahead of an important Sept. 30 reporting deadline that will give a snapshot of their financial strength. Obama's West Coast visit was heavy on fundraisers: two each in Seattle and the San Francisco area Sunday, followed by one in San Diego on Monday and two in Los Angeles.

The expected haul: $4 million or more.

He scheduled a town hall-style event Monday in the Silicon Valley hosted by social networking company LinkedIn. The trip ends Tuesday with a speech to supporters in Denver, where he accepted the Democratic nomination three years ago.

Obama will work to sell the job proposal, which combines tax cuts, unemployment benefits and public works spending. The bill faces a hostile reception on Capitol Hill, particularly because Obama wants to pay for it with tax increases opposed by Republicans.

A top aide, David Plouffe, said the White House expects a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate in October. "I think it's got a very good chance" of passing, despite reservations even from some in the president's own party, he told ABC's "This Week."

If he can't persuade Congress to pass the bill, Obama has said he wants to make sure the public knows who's standing in the way.

Jobs are a major concern in California, where unemployment stands at 12.1 percent, highest of any state except Nevada.

Mark DiCamillo, director of California's Field Poll, said that's contributed to a softening of support for Obama among Democratic and independent voters. Obama's job approval rating dropped to 46 percent among Californians in a Field Poll this month. Among Democrats it was 69 percent, but that was down 10 percentage points from June.

"Californians voted for him by 24 points in 2008 and the Democrats and nonpartisans were the backbone of his support and he's losing some of that now," DiCamillo said. "I think there's a lot of frustration in California about Washington. ... They're looking for Obama to do something."

The summer's nasty debate over raising the government's borrowing limit turned off voters. Many liberals bemoaned the deal that cleared the way for a higher debt ceiling, with Obama agreeing to Republican demands for steep budget cuts without new taxes.

But Democratic supporters are heartened by the jobs plan and Obama's insistence that Congress must raise taxes to pay for it. Now they're hoping that the confrontational Obama they're seeing now is the same one they'll see through the 2012 campaign.

"We wish that his fighting spirit had been there a few months ago, but it's here now," said Rick Jacobs, head of the Courage Campaign, a progressive online organizing network in California.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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