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Obama criticizes Republicans for focusing on Benghazi, Obamacare

U.S. President Barack Obama talks while having lunch with construction workers at Shake Shack in Washington May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lama
U.S. President Barack Obama talks while having lunch with construction workers at Shake Shack in Washington May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lama

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama chastised his Republican opponents on Monday for focusing criticism on the events surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and on his signature healthcare law.

"The debate we're having now is about what, Benghazi? Obamacare? And it becomes this endless loop. It's not serious. It's not speaking to the real concerns that people have," Obama said.

He was speaking to more than 60 people at a fundraising dinner for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives.

The event took place at a physician's home in the Washington suburb of Potomac, Maryland, as Obama seeks to persuade Democrats to organize for a voter turnout effort to prevent Republicans from ousting Democrats from control of the Senate and from building on their majority in the House.

Republicans in the House have begun a new investigation of the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans during a militant attack on September 11, 2012.

The new probe was spawned by the disclosure of an email from Obama national security aide Ben Rhodes. Rhodes used the email to prepare Obama aide Susan Rice for television appearances, telling her to stress that the protests rocking the Muslim world at the time were not rooted "in a broader failure of policy."

Republicans have also directed election-year fire at Obama's Affordable Care Act, focusing on the rocky rollout of the law last October.

Obama said the main focus of Republicans "is trying to figure out how they can make people sufficiently cynical, sufficiently angry, sufficiently suspicious that they can win the next election."

"I hate to be blunt about it, but that's the play," he said.

Polls show Republicans stand to maintain control of the House and possibly seize the Senate in November elections. Such an outcome would make it extremely difficult for Obama to advance his priorities during the last two years of his presidency, in 2015 and 2016.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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