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Obama turns to tech leaders for cash for Democrats

U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. RE
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington January 28, 2014. RE

By Steve Holland

SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned tech leaders on Thursday to dig deep in their wallets to fund Democratic candidates and feel a sense of urgency about congressional elections in November or risk further gridlock in Washington and a failure to move on their priorities.

Obama was the headline speaker at four California fund-raising events, raising his two-day total to five. His last was a Silicon Valley event in San Jose co-hosted by Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Yahoo Inc CEO Marissa Mayer. About 250 people paid between $1,000 and $32,400 to attend.

During his remarks, Obama struck at the heart of the issue that Republicans are using against Democrats in their campaigns: The Affordable Care Act, the Obamacare law whose troubled rollout has given Obama's political opponents much grist for criticism.

Republicans have mounted a strong effort to seize control of the Senate from Democrats and are also trying to build on their majority in the House of Representatives. Obama said the effort must be stopped in order to prevent more gridlock in Washington.

"The reason that we've got gridlock right now is because you've got a party that's been captured by folks who are on the wrong side of the issues," he said.

Obama, whose own job approval rating under 50 percent is weighing down Democratic prospects in November, said Republicans offer nothing more than their vow to repeal the healthcare law.

"If that's all they've got, then they shouldn't be running either chamber, They shouldn't be running the House. And they sure shouldn't be running the Senate," he said.

Earlier Obama took his California fund-raising tour first to the seaside home in La Jolla of Qualcomm founder Iwin Jacobs.

The tech industry has raised questions about the scale of the National Security Agency's surveillance under the Obama administration, but there's little sign that Obama is losing support in Silicon Valley.

Obama made no mention of these concerns in his luncheon speech attended by 65 guests who paid up to $32,400 per couple for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama told them that majorities of Americans support the direction that Democrats want to take the country, such as on raising the minimum wage and making sure women receive equal pay as men, but that they have "lost faith that we can actually make it happen" because of Washington gridlock.

Obama needs Democrats to do well in November to allow him to advance his agenda in his last two years in office, in 2015 and 2016.

But most political analysts believe Republicans will build on their House majority and stand a decent chance of winning the Senate.

Obama has been using fund-raising speeches to warn of this outcome, saying Democrats need to avoid getting distracted by media attention on the 2016 presidential election to choose a successor to him.

Obama said in La Jolla that Democrats need to gain seats "in order for us to not simply play defense but to actually go back on the offensive for the American people."

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Ken Wills and Chris Gallagher)

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