By ERICA WERNER
WASHINGTON (AP) — On the eve of the crucial New Hampshire primary, President Barack Obama told supporters Monday that the Republicans vying for his job out on the campaign trail are no different from the ones opposing his policies on Capitol Hill.
Speaking at an evening fundraiser at a Washington hotel, Obama several times dismissed "the Republicans in Congress and the candidates who are running for president," saying both groups were trying to eliminate needed environmental protections, roll back the minimum wage, dismantle Medicare and gut spending on education, research and infrastructure.
"Republicans in Congress and these candidates, they think that the best way for America to compete for new jobs and businesses is to follow other countries in a race to the bottom," Obama said. "We can't go back to this brand of you're-on-your-own economics."
The president didn't mention any of the Republicans by name, and made only a passing reference to New Hampshire. But it was his most explicit effort yet to link the GOP presidential field with the unpopular Republicans in Congress — a strategy the White House has been signaling it would employ.
Obama also sought to recapture some of the energy of his 2008 campaign, telling about 700 supporters at the Capitol Hilton that their work was far from finished in 2012.
"The very core of what this country stands for is on the line," he said, adding, in another swipe at the GOP field: "Don't take my word for it. Watch some of these debates that have been going on."
Obama didn't talk about Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, but did tell supporters at one point that a sense of common purpose still exists in the country — even if "maybe it doesn't exist here in Washington and maybe not on the presidential debate stage of New Hampshire, but out in America, it's there."
Supporters paid $100 per ticket to see Obama speak at the reception as the president got back on the fundraising trail for the first time in 2012, something he'll be doing with increasing frequency through the November election.
At an earlier event Monday at the swanky Jefferson Hotel, Obama joined around 25 guests for a closed-press round table discussion with tickets $45,000 each and proceeds split between his campaign and the Swing State Victory Fund, which supports Democrats in battleground states. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)