Chicago: US President Barack Obama has turned his 50th birthday celebration into a 2012 election campaign fundraising drive after weeks of damaging debt showdown with Republicans.
Obama, who critics have accused of being weak and ineffectual during the recent debt battle, visited his hometown of Chicago on the eve of his birthday for a celebrity-studded bash and sought to recapture the energy of his last presidential campaign.
The President, who turned 50 today, on Tuesday signed a legislation to raise the nation`s debt limit by USD 2.4 trillion expected to cover debt payments through the end of 2012, while cutting federal deficits, and compromising with Republican demands in a bipartisan package.
Returning to the campaign trail after a month spent locked in debt talks, Obama used his appearances to defend his economic record.
Obama, who attended fundraisers here, said that the nation doesn`t have time to "play these partisan games”.
"I hope we can avoid another self-inflicted wound like we saw over the last couple weeks," Obama said of the recent debt-ceiling gridlock at the Aragon Entertainment Centre.
Around 2,400 people who attended the fundraising events paid at least USD 50 and wore cone-shaped birthday hats with the number `50` and the campaign`s logo, the newspaper reported.
"It`s been a long, tough year. But we have made some incredible strides together. Yes, we have. But the thing we all have to remember is, as much good as we`ve done, precisely because the challenges were so daunting, precisely because we were inheriting so many challenges, that we`re not even halfway there yet," he said.
Obama read off a list of accomplishments dear to his base such as expanding health care coverage, allowing gays to serve openly in the military to winding down the war in Iraq.
"Now, when I said change we can believe it, I didn`t say, `change we can believe in tomorrow`. `Not, change we can believe in next week’," he said.
"We knew this was going to take time because we`ve got this big, messy tough democracy."
Obama was greeted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he arrived here.
Later, he attended two fundraisers on the North Side, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The main crowd in Chicago was entertained by singer-actor Jennifer Hudson, the hometown band OK Go and Hancock.Hudson led the audience in singing `Happy Birthday`.
Hudson was also joined by Emanuel who sang to wish Obama for his birthday.
Obama`s visit to his hometown was not only marked by cheer but also protests for his immigration policies on deportation against illegal immigrants.
The newspaper reported that across the street from the Aragon Entertainment Centre, about four dozen people protested what they said are aggressive deportation policies against illegal immigrants.
They crowded around a cardboard birthday cake on which "Happy birthday, Deportation President" was scrawled while one waved a sign, "We hoped for better."
Republicans also mocked Obama saying that amid high jobless rates and an uncertain economy, the President was out raising campaign cash.