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Obama tries to rally Democrats at DNC meeting

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama told fellow Democrats yesterday this is no time to "lick our wounds and try to hang on," and vowed instead to press ahead with financial regulatory and health care reforms.

With his legislative agenda in limbo, Obama sought to rally Democratic activists reeling from last month's loss of a pivotal Senate seat and scrambling to head off a Republican challenge in the November congressional elections. One year into office, Obama has recalibrated his agenda to make job creation his top priority. The Senate begins debate this week on a series of bills to boost employment.

Saturday, Obama addressed a meeting of the Democratic National Committee, accusing Republicans of caring more about "scoring political points" than solving the country's pressing problems, like unemployment. But he presented no new ideas on how the Democrats could overcome obstacles that have stalled his priorities.

Obama also steadfastly declared he is "not going to walk away from health insurance reform."

Hammering one of his biggest challenges, Obama said "America can't afford to wait" for a financial regulatory overhaul to plug gaps widely seen as the root of the 2008 markets crisis that tipped the economy into deep recession.

He spoke a day after Senate Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) declared an impasse with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), his Republican counterpart in negotiations to reach a compromise on tightening financial rules. The situation leaves Democrats with the option of trying to proceed alone.

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod suggested, in an interview to air on C-SPAN today, some Republicans were yielding to an "enormous lobbying campaign" by financial firms opposed to reform.

"If the Republican Party makes a decision that they can turn this into a fundraising device, then it's going to become more difficult," he told the network on Friday.

Venturing out of the White House in a snowstorm to address Democratic leaders at a nearby hotel, Obama renewed his populist critique of big banks and Wall Street, a source of public anger amid the resurgence of large executive bonuses.

With his approval ratings down amid persistently high unemployment, Obama acknowledged "people are frustrated." "I know we've gone through a tough year. But we've gone through tougher," he said, seeking to boost morale.

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