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Obama tells Democrats to focus on November midterms, not 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on raising the minimum wage at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on raising the minimum wage at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut

By Roberta Rampton

BOSTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama gently chided Democratic donors on Wednesday for paying too much attention to the next presidential race in 2016 and not enough attention to the upcoming midterm elections in 2014.

Reminding Democrats at a fundraiser in Boston that "we got whalloped" in the 2010 midterms, when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Obama warned that "it could happen again if we don't fight on behalf of the things we care about in this election."

"No one could be more invested than me in having a Democrat succeed me," Obama told about 70 supporters at a dinner where tickets cost $5,000 to $20,000. But he stressed to Democrats they need to invest time, money and energy on the November midterms.

"In the midterms, Democrats too often don't vote. Too often, when there's not a presidential election, we don't think it's sexy, we don't think it's interesting, people tune out," Obama said.

A third of the 100-member Senate is up for grabs in November elections as well as all 435 seats in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Republicans believe they have a good chance to pick up the six seats they need to take control of the Senate based on public dissatisfaction with Obama.

The Boston event was one of 30 fundraisers the president plans to headline through June.

Earlier on Wednesday, in Cambridge, Mass., Obama held a private roundtable discussion with about 25 supporters at up to $32,400 per ticket, organized by the Democratic National Committee.

Obama told supporters that the policies he is promoting are popular with voters, such as raising the minimum wage.

"It's common sense, that's all I'm trying to say. It's just common sense," Obama said in a campaign-style speech to about 3,000 people at the Central Connecticut State University, just outside of Hartford earlier on Wednesday.

Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, up from the current level of $7.25, which he said would lift wages for 28 million people. Three-quarters of Americans agree it should be hiked.

"It would immediately raise millions of people out of poverty. It would help millions more work their way out of poverty. And it doesn't require new taxes, doesn't require new spending, doesn't require some vast bureaucracy," Obama said.

Connecticut has already raised its state minimum wage above $7.25, and Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is seeking to hike it again to $10.10.

Republicans have objected to the plan to raise the minimum wage, bolstered by a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which said the plan could lead to 500,000 fewer jobs.

"We know beyond dispute that raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs for people who need them the most. When folks are still struggling to find work in this economy, why would we make that any harder?" said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican Speaker John Boehner, in a statement.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Tom Brown and Ken Wills)

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