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Obama says shutdown shows contrast of parties' visions

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands before he speaks at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, October 25, 2
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands before he speaks at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Brooklyn, October 25, 2

By Mark Felsenthal

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With an eye to 2014 elections, President Barack Obama held up the government shutdown this month as an emblem of fundamental differences between Democrats and Republicans on Friday in an appeal to wealthy donors.

"The shutdown was about more than just healthcare, it was about, sort of, a contrast in visions about what our obligations are to our fellow citizens," the president said at a fundraiser at the home of Karen Mehiel on New York's posh Upper East Side.

Republicans made defunding the president's signature healthcare program a condition for continuing to fund government operations, leading to a partial shutdown for 16 days and bringing the country to the brink of debt default.

The president must work with Republicans who control the House of Representatives if he hopes to pass budget, immigration reform or farm legislation this year, as he has said he hopes to do.

But his comments point to an effort to take advantage of the shutdown, which hurt Republicans' in public opinion polls, to help Democrats make inroads and perhaps reverse the Republicans' majority in the House.

Serious snags marring the rollout this month of the healthcare program could hurt Democrats, but Obama made no mention of those difficulties in brief public remarks at other fundraisers.

Instead, the president focused on his hopes to boost spending on things like education and repairing roads and bridges, which he said were part of the vision for the country that Democrats share.

"We believe that government has a role to play," he said. "Part of the debate and battle over the last several years has been what role do we have as a country collectively to create the platform and the tools for people to succeed."

The president has embarked on a series of fundraising events that began this week in Washington.

In New York, he raised money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at a reception followed by a dinner. It was the fourth fundraiser he has held for the DCCC in the 2014 cycle.

At another event across town in Manhattan, Obama appeared at an event attended by 20 people who paid up to $32,400, a Democratic National Committee official said.

Obama is due to travel to Boston for fundraisers next week.

In November, he is expected to raise funds in Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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