ABC News' Kristina Wong and Jon Garcia report:
At a Las Vegas, Nevada fundraiser for Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign for re-election, President Obama attacked Reid’s opponent Sharron Angle hard, and tried to draw a contrast between hardworking Democrats who fight for the little-guy, and irresponsible, obstructionist, "do-nothing" Republicans defending Wall Street and BP.
The president compared Las Vegas residents to those in the Gulf affected by the BP oil spill – whose livelihoods depend on tourism, and attacked Angle’s stance on the spill, saying her answer was to deregulate the oil industry. He brought up Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward, in which he called a $20 billion escrow account to compensate those affected a “shakedown.”
“Harry’s opponent agreed with this guy, she called the compensation we provided a slush fund,” the president said. “A few hours later, her campaign puts out a memo saying ‘she didn’t say that’… . They said there was some ‘confusion’. I’m sure she meant ‘slush fund’ in the nicest possible way,” he quipped.
He painted Angle as an extremist whose social and economic views leaned farther right than Republicans in Washington.
“Harry Reid’s opponent doesn’t just believe in these old worn out theories,” the president said. “She favors an approach even more extreme than the ones we have in Washington.”
He brought up statements Angle had made about wanting to phase out and privatize social security and medicare (to which an audience member yelled, “Phase her out!”).
The president described Reid as a scrappy fighter, despite his soft-spoken demeanor.
“You know Harry used to be a boxer, he likes to brag about that, but he brags in his Harry way: ‘I wasn’t big, obviously, but I could take a punch,’” the president said.
“He’s taken his lumps, we all have. But I have no doubt that the people in Nevada will realize the quality of public servant they have in Harry Reid partly because he knows no matter what kind of lumps he’s taking, nothing compares to the lumps folks back home have been taking.”
“He knows what it’s like to see your folks scraping by, and have to tell you ‘No, we’re sorry we can’t afford this, we can’t afford that.’ He’s been there… When he hears stories of Nevadans who’ve lost their jobs…who after doing the right thing, somehow have gotten the short end of the stick, that’s who he identifies with, that’s who he’s fighting for.”
The president reiterated statements from earlier fundraisers on Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri for Senate candidate Robin Carnahan, blaming Republicans for turning a record surplus to a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit, and creating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
He defended health care reform, and pushed back against Republican attacks on spending, comparing it to drunken sailors lecturing on sobriety.
And as he has during other fundraisers, the president acknowledged some actions taken by Democrats in response to the economic crisis weren’t popular, but said Reid was a strong leader who does what is right, not politically expedient.
“My job isn’t to put my finger up to the wind and see which way the wind is blowing. That’s not Harry Reid’s job. That’s not leadership. Our job is to focus not on the next election, but on the next generation and that’s why we made those decisions.”