NEW YORK -- Regrouping with Democrats after a bitter budget fight, President Barack Obama on Friday cast the recent spending-and-debt standoff with Congress as "a symptom of a larger challenge" but one offering Democrats the chance to show voters the virtues of their vision for government ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
At the heart of the impasse that shuttered the government were deep disagreements about what role the government should play in helping Americans succeed, Obama told about 60 donors at a fundraiser for House Democrats.
"The shutdown was about more than just health care," Obama said. "It was about a contrast of visions, about what our obligations are to each other as fellow citizens."
"And we've got the better side of that argument," Obama added.
It was the first glimpse at how Obama and Democrats will seek to frame the crisis in the minds of donors and voters ahead of next year's pivotal midterm elections. Obama put political events on hold during the 16-day shutdown but returned to campaigning for Democrats Friday with a pair of top-dollar events in New York.
Obama told donors that the impasse was "a symptom of a larger challenge," exposing how American politics, with its intense focus on ideology, has become detached from the problems ordinary Americans face. He portrayed the crisis as an opportunity for Democrats to unite behind a vision of broad-based prosperity, where the government has a hand in giving people the tools to succeed.
"We believe that government has a role to play," Obama said.
Democrats emerged strengthened politically from the crisis, in which Republicans refused for weeks to fund the government unless Obama agreed to debilitating changes to his health care law. Polls show more Americans blamed Republicans than Democrats for the dysfunction.
But how effectively Democrats can turn that leverage into gains in an election more than a year out is still an open question.
"The stakes are high," Obama said. "The one thing I'm absolutely confident about is that if we work hard, that we can make a case to the American people and we can win it."
Although Democrats were remarkably united during the crisis, Obama acknowledged that members of his party hold a range of views on key issues heading into 2014. But he said they agree on their vision of the U.S. as a place where opportunity and prosperity are broad-based and available to all.
The New York swing kicked off an intense, six-week burst of fundraising for Obama, who will headline at least nine fundraisers from Florida to Texas to California before the end of November for Democratic campaign committees. Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are holding their own events.