President Barack Obama returned to his hometown Chicago on Wednesday and told Democrats that while he's willing to work with Republicans he can get more done with his party in control of the U.S. House.
"If day in, day out, what we confront is obstructionism for the sake of obstructionism, and what appears to be an interest only in scoring points or placating the base as opposed to trying to advance the interests of the American people, then we've got to figure out a way to work around that," he told about 150 supporters at the Chicago Hilton, where ticket prices started at $1,000 per person.
'We've got a great chance of taking back the House," he said. "I'm going to be working tirelessly, wherever I get the opportunity, to make the case to the American people that our ideas are the right ones to broaden the middle class."
Among the attendees were House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dick Durbin, Reps. Robin Kelly, Bobby Rush, Bill Foster, and Jan Schakowsky -- who introduced the president as a "dear friend" and "our very favorite son," -- as well as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Steve Israel.
The president acknowledged Israel's birthday on Thursday, lending his voice and leading the room in a rendition of "Happy Birthday."
Obama flew into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport just before 5 p.m. After greeting a small cheering crowd near Air Force One, he boarded the presidential helicopter for the short flight to Soldier Field and a motorcade to the downtown hotel.
From there, it was off to a private reception at the home of supporters Bettylu and Paul Saltzman. Dinner tickets for that event started at $10,000 and went up to $32,400 -- the legal maximum.
All told, Obama's events Wednesday were likely to bring in almost $1 million, at a minimum, for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Democrats need to gain 17 seats to recapture control of the House next year. It's an ambitious goal, Democrats acknowledge, considering the president's party typically loses seats during the sixth year in office. But after spending half a decade in the minority, confounding Obama's efforts to push his legislative agenda through Congress, Democrats have resolved to try. They're eyeing potential pickups in places like Florida and Texas and courting moderate, outsider candidates they believe they can sell as more pragmatic than incumbent Republicans.
"This will be hard," Obama said at the Saltzman's Streeterville home. "Frankly, the way gerrymandering now works, and the geographical distribution of the population makes winning back the House a challenge. But, know what? Me winning the presidency was a challenge."
Although criticized by some in his party for doing too little to help the cause in his first term, Obama has shown himself to be a formidable fundraising force. He raised $3.25 million for House Democrats last month at fundraisers in San Francisco — among the 20 or so events Obama has agreed to headline ahead of the 2014 elections for House Democrats, Senate Democrats and the Democratic National Committee, which is still retiring debt the party racked up helping Obama get re-elected last year.
First lady Michelle Obama got in on the action Wednesday, too, raising cash in Massachusetts for a Democrat running in a special election for a U.S. Senate seat, then dashing off to New York for a pair of fundraisers for the DNC. At one event along Central Park, the DNC's annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender gala, Mrs. Obama was joined by singer Sara Bareilles and by NBA player Jason Collins, who the president praised effusively in April after he became the first active player in one of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues to come out as gay. About 350 people attended, with tickets ranging from $1,250 to $32,400.
During Obama's first term, some Democrats griped that the president didn't do enough to help the party's congressional candidates, particularly ahead of the 2010 midterms. Those elections saw Republicans win control of the House.
Obama is expected to spend the night at his Kenwood home. First Lady Michelle Obama is not along for the trip, which comes one day after the president toured the Jersey Shore to check on recovery efforts. Superstorm Sandy caused $40 billion worth of damage there in October and destroyed nearly 350,000 homes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report