After the fundraiser, Obama did stop for about 20 minutes at his own home on his way back toward O'Hare via a helicopter ride from Soldier Field. At about 10:36 p.m., he was back aboard Air Force One headed back to Washington.

The fundraising tour came a day after former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has labeled Obama the leader of a failed presidency, captured his second GOP campaign victory in a row with a win in the New Hampshire primary.

Obama did not mention any of the Republican field by name but sought to lump them into the controversies he's had with the House Republican majority.

"America is not going to win if we give in to those who think we can only respond to our challenges with the same tired tune, just hand out more tax cuts to folks who don't need them or weren't even asking for them, let companies do whatever they want, hope that prosperity somehow trickles down on everybody else's head," Obama said. "It doesn't work."

Obama said there's no question "folks are still hurting" in a still-struggling economy.

"We've got a long way to go. The question is what are we going to do about it, where are we going to go, what direction does this country move toward," he said.

"This crowd," he said of Republicans, "they think the best way for America to compete for new jobs and businesses is to follow other countries in a race to the bottom."

He also returned to the popular themes of togetherness and change he first honed in the 2008 campaign.

"Our political parties may be divided, but most Americans, they understand now that we're in this together," he said. "We rise and fall together as one nation, as one people. That's what's at stake right now. That's what this election is about."

Earlier in the day, at a White House forum praising companies for growing domestic jobs, Obama introduced a theme he's certain to use often in the campaign -- that Romney helped send American jobs overseas during his corporate career. He did not mention Romney by name or his time at Bain Capital, the private investment firm he co-founded.

Despite the day's flurry of political activity, Josh Earnest, the White House deputy press secretary, said, "the president remains focused on his No 1. job, which is serving the American public as the president of the United States."

"There will be a time and a place for the re-election campaign to be fully engaged, but we're not there yet," Earnest said.

It was Obama's 11th visit home since becoming president and first since celebrating the eve of his 50th birthday last August with a fundraising event. Aides said he was looking forward to seeing longtime friends and supporters before diving into the presentation of his legislative agenda and budget in two weeks.

Obama's return was also bittersweet. Along for the ride was Bill Daley, who announced Monday he was returning to Chicago at month's end and stepping down as White House chief of staff after less than a year.

Obama said he was taking special note to publicly compliment Daley, brother of former Mayor Richard Daley, on the work he had done for the presidency and the country.

Again noting he was surprised by his chief of staff's decision to step down, Obama said, "as much as I will miss him in the White House, he's going to be an extraordinary asset to our campaign."