President Barack Obama pressed Democrats to come out in November or be defeated by a party he accused of living in the past, delivering a rousing political address to Democrats gathered at a hotel near the White House.
"It's Friday, it's after 5 o'clock so this is officially happy hour with the Democratic party," Obama said to a ballroom of activists at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting -- his remarks a complete departure from a sober statement he had delivered earlier at the White House, warning Russia about moving into Ukraine.
As the crowd shouted and cheered, Obama cast Democrats as fighting for "opportunity for all" -- and said Republicans are offering the same economic theory they offered before the latest economic crash -- including tax breaks to the wealthy.
"Just because this theory has a history doesn’t mean it should have a future," Obama said to applause. "It’s time to retire this theory. It doesn’t work. Doesn’t work."
Republicans have a decent shot at reclaiming control of the Senate in November, and Obama cast the election choice in stark terms: "Opportunity for a few, or opportunity for all."
Mocking Republicans for what he called an "obsession" with repealing his signature health care act -- "the 50th time is the charm, you know" -- Obama offered a full-throated defense of the law, saying it will provide millions with health care.
"Millions of Americans are more secure and will be more secure because of what we did," he said. "Because as Democrats, we believe that no hardworking American should ever go broke just because they get sick."
A heckler at one point interrupted, shouting "Tell us about your plans for nuclear war with Russia," but the crowd shouted him down and Obama began joking: "What the heck are you talking about? He thought happy hour started earlier."
Obama promised his budget to be delivered to Congress next week "will create new jobs in manufacturing and energy and innovation and infrastructure." And he said the White House would pay for it "by cutting unnecessary spending, closing wasteful tax loopholes."
And he poked fun at Republicans as he insisted "every woman deserves to control her own health care choices -- not her boss, not her insurer, not anybody in Congress."
"I don't know why we’re still arguing about this," he said. He noted that Republicans in Congress had brought in outside aides to teach them how to talk to women: "It is unclear how they’ve gotten this far without that particular skill," he said.
But he added, "The problem isn’t how they talk about their policies -- the problem is their policies."
And he put in a plug for raising the minimum wage, noting that in the year he asked Congress to raise it, six states have passed laws to raise theirs.
"It is time to give America a raise, or elect more Democrats who will do it," Obama said.
He labeled Republicans as a party of nay-sayers, saying Republicans oppose the Affordable Care Act, minimum wage, equal pay laws, immigration reform and "the very existence of climate change."
And he accused Republican politicians of being "stuck in the past," noting that "in some states, they’re so far in the past they’re even pushing laws to legalize segregation based on sexual orientation" -- an apparent reference to vetoed legislation in Arizona that critics say would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays. He charged that "there are more folks who believe in what we stand for than believe in what they stand for" and urged Democrats to show up in November.
He said Republicans are counting on Democrats not showing up in November: "Their models are constructed based on the idea that Americans will sit out this election -- because they look at the past, and in the past it's true," Obama said. "A lot of Democrats don't vote during midterms. We just don't. Young people, African Americans, Latinos -- we just, oftentimes, don't vote during midterms."