President Pugilist

When it comes to campaign politics and partisan rhetoric, President Obama tends to remain above the fray. Once in a while, though, the fray suits him just fine.

President Obama on Sunday criticized not only the Republicans vying to defeat him but also their party’s conservative base — symbolized by the audiences at recent candidate debates — in a busy day of four West Coast fund-raisers to collect money and rally dispirited Democratic donors.

In Woodside, Calif., an affluent community between San Francisco and San Jose, Mr. Obama hit his stump-speech theme that the 2012 election will be “a contest of values,” and then suggested that some in his audience might well be former Republicans “puzzled by what’s happening to that party.”

I haven’t seen any transcripts of the remarks, but it sounds like the president was fairly combative.

* On Rick Perry: “[H]as anybody been watching the debates lately? You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.”

* On Republican debate audiences: “You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are.”

* On the GOP’s agenda: It’s an “approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.”

* On Republican rhetoric: “If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor.”

To be sure, Obama’s rhetoric at fundraisers has generally been more pointed than at other events, a trend that’s been consistent throughout his presidency.

But given the tone and targets of Obama’s remarks, it’s fair to say those waiting for a more confrontational president have gotten their wish.