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Obama in Chicago knocks GOP rivals: No Abe Lincolns among them

President Barack Obamspeaks during 'Lawyers for ObamLuncheon' fundraiser Friday March 16 2012 Palmer House Hotel Chicago.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez

President Barack Obama speaks during a 'Lawyers for Obama Luncheon' fundraiser, Friday, March, 16, 2012, at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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Updated: April 19, 2012 8:30AM

President Barack Obama returned home for two fund-raisers Friday, taking aim at GOP rivals stumping in Illinois in advance of the Tuesday primary as contenders who hardly measured up to another president from Illinois — a Republican, Abe Lincoln.

In his speech, Obama said he wants the U.S. to be as competitive as other nations: “I don’t want to ride on a road in Germany and see a better road than Lake Shore Drive.”

Obama headlined two events in Chicago on Friday before flying to Atlanta for three more events, which ended up raising $5 million for the combined Democratic National Committee/Obama 2012 re-election drive.

The first Obama event — a “Lawyers for Obama” luncheon at the Palmer House Hilton — was open to the public and the press. A roundtable for major donors after that was not, even though it featured Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, top Obama strategist David Axelrod, business executive Penny Pritzker and former Illinois Senate president Emil Jones.

At the start of the luncheon, Axelrod introduced a video released Thursday night that the Obama campaign is calling a “documentary,” which recounts the accomplishments of his administration.

Obama was introduced by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who was his seatmate when they both served in the Illinois Senate.

“Now, you might have noticed that we have some guests in Illinois this week,” Obama said at a luncheon at the Palmer House, referring to Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, campaigning in the northwest suburbs Friday, and Newt Gingrich, in the area Wednesday and Thursday. “Apparently things haven’t quite wrapped up on the other side. So, so there is actually some interest in the primary that we have here on Tuesday. And my message to all the candidates is: Welcome to the Land of Lincoln.

“Because I’m thinking, maybe some Lincoln will rub off on them while they are here,” Obama said, recounting that Lincoln, even during the Civil War, was able to build a transcontinental railroad and establish land grant colleges.

Obama, continuing to aim his remarks at his GOP rivals, said Lincoln “understood that we are a people that take great pride in our self-reliance and our independence, but that we are also one nation and one people, and that we rise or fall together.

“So I hope that while my counterparts on the other side enjoy the outstanding hospitality of the people of Illinois and spend some money here to promote our economy — I hope they also take a little bit of time to reflect on this great man, the first Republican president.”

He addressed what is sometimes called the “enthusiasm gap” this year. “As much as 2008 was exciting, and — as much as all of us, I think, saw that night at Grant Park as — as the culmination of something, it was actually just the beginning of what we’re fighting for.”

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