Obama Returns to Chicago Home to Sleep, Cook, 'Putter in My Backyard'

CHICAGO - President Obama is back in his adopted hometown tonight for three campaign fundraisers and an overnight stay (sans family) in his private home on the city's South Side.

"It's good to be back home. I'm sleeping in my bed tonight. I'm going to go to my kitchen and might cook something. Putter in my backyard," Obama joked before a crowd of 350 donors at the Chicago Cultural Center. "The White House is nice, but I'm just leasing."

Obama said he wants to extend that lease for another four years, and argued that voters in November will need to weigh a stark choice before giving him the opportunity.

"The choice in this election will be between a vision that didn't work in 2000-2008. Didn't work before the Great Depression. The Gilded Age. We've seen this philosophy before. But usually we've come to our senses. We see that's not how democracy is built."

"That's the vision we're going to have to confront and address in this election," he said. "The good news is when you cut through the noise and just ask people, most people agree with us."

Obama acknowledged, as he did earlier in the day, that today's jobs report left much to be desired, attributing the lackluster numbers to the European debt crisis.

"We saw that in today's job report. A lot of that is attributed to Europe, the cloud coming over the Atlantic. The world economy has been weakened by it, but beyond that we still know too many friends, family out of work. Too many people struggling to pay bills," he said.

Of his opponent, former Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney, the president said his strategy is to "surf folks' frustrations all the way to the White House."

"This is going to be a close race. The reason it's going to be a close race is because we've gone through a tough four years … and folks feel worn out," he said. "And if you don't have a job, you don't care that 4 million jobs have been created. You're still waiting for yours.

"Frankly, it makes it easier for the other guys," he added. "All they have to say is, 'You know what? You're frustrated that things aren't where they need to be and it's Obama's fault.'"

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama White House chief of staff, introduced the president, saying, "Obama comes out here and the sun comes out. Obama has the courage, confidence, character to get this economy moving again.

He noted that Obama "has the economy growing, where it was actually shrinking" when he took office. "The voices of the middle class, that's what we need in the Oval Office," Emanuel said.

Rosalyn Oshmyansky contributed to this report.