President Obama bragged the nation was "better off now than we were five years ago" while touting the economic recovery in a campaign-style speech on Wednesday in Denver, arguing administration officials have made some "pretty smart policies."

"The decisions we made early on not only stopped the slide, but they built a new foundation for our economy, and they're paying off," Obama proudly declared during an economic speech intended to rally a reticent Democratic base.

ADVERTISEMENT
The president has seen his popularity fade in his second term, besieged by crises abroad and controversies over mismanagement at federal agencies like the VA and the IRS.

But on Wednesday, Obama urged his supporters not to buy into the "cottage industry in Washington that counts on you just getting cynical about stuff." In one of the strongest embraces of his economic record to date, Obama argued some "pretty smart policies" offered by his administration had resulted in the biggest jobs boom since the 1990s.

"Despite what you may hear, there is no doubt we are making progress," Obama said. "By almost every measure, we are better off than when I took office."

The president also looked to pin blame for Washington dysfunction squarely on congressional Republicans, accusing the GOP of "political stunts" like Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) proposed lawsuit that "waste taxpayer time and money."

"Maybe they don't get what ordinary folks are going through. … I’m not going to stand by and let partisan gridlock or political games threaten the hard work of millions of Americans," Obama said.

Obama said Republicans should not "be mad at me for doing something."

"How about teaming up with me so we can all do something?" he asked.

The criticism of Boehner drew significant applause from the crowd, and White House advisers said the response validated the president's decision to tackle the lawsuit head on.

"Nothing gets a bigger response from the crowd than mentions of Boehner's plan to sue POTUS for doing his job, while they do nothing," tweeted senior Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer during the speech.

For Obama, motivating his base will be key if Democrats are to hold on in the Senate. Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 Senate seats up this fall, and election watchers widely expect the party to lose ground as they protect a fragile six-seat majority.

According to a CBS News poll this year, 70 percent of registered Republicans said they were very or somewhat excited about voting in November, compared to just 58 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Independents. Moreover, 81 percent of Republicans said they'd definitely vote in November, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.

Obama said he empathized with those angered by the "stubborn status quo" in Washington.

"I get frustrated," Obama said. "I'll admit there are some things I have to mutter under my breath sometimes."

But Obama said such cynicism was "a choice," and, recalling his presidential campaign motto, "hope is a better choice."