WASHINGTON – Grasping for the electric energy that propelled him to the White House, President Barack Obama whipped up young supporters at a rally Thursday night, where the boisterous crowd tried to shout down any talk of an "enthusiasm gap" among Democrats.
"I'm back here today just in case you've forgotten what it feels like to change the country," Obama called out to a sold-out crowd of 3,000 at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at DAR Constitution Hall.
"It was always going to be hard," Obama said as the crowd interrupted him with cheers and hollers. "Now is not the time to quit."
The DNC had enlisted hip hop artist B.o.B to perform, and the crowd also heard from Obama's 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, on the importance of the youth vote to the November midterm elections, which are expected to be brutal for the Democrats.
As at a massive rally earlier in the week in Madison, Wis., Obama seemed to recapture, at least for a few moments, some of the political magic of his 2008 presidential campaign. When he spoke of the "pundits" who were decreeing an "enthusiasm gap" the crowd yelled uproariously, apparently wanting to prove there wasn't one.
"I need you to be fired up, I need you to stay fired up, all the way to Nov. 2. ... Because Nov. 2 is going to say a lot about your future," the president said.
Obama and Democrats will need to gin up as much of that enthusiasm as they can if they are to avoid a bloodletting at the hands of determined Republicans and the tea party movement on Election Day. The president met with Democratic congressional leaders at the White House earlier Thursday to make plans for how to do just that.
Thursday's event was organized for the DNC's Gen44 group, which tries to cultivate young leaders. It was expected to raise $750,000.
Beforehand, Obama spoke at a small fundraising dinner at the home of John Phillips and Linda Douglass, where guests paid $30,400 each to raise $1 million for the Democratic Party. Citing his big rally in Madison, Obama told the group that Democrats are "waking up."