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Republicans have long held that corporate campaign giving is a free-speech right that must be protected.

Obama used a Rose Garden appearance ? as he did in a similar speech last week about extending unemployment benefits ? to cast Republicans as an obstacle to common-sense campaign finance legislation.

"You would think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections would not be a partisan issue," Obama said. The bill, known as the DISCLOSE Act, would require the identities of corporate donors to be made known.

"But of course this is Washington in 2010," Obama said, focusing blame on Republicans.

With the midterm elections drawing closer, Obama is stepping up his criticism of congressional Republicans, a strategy intended to portray clear choices facing voters.

The decision to employ Obama as his party's campaigner in chief comes after congressional Democrats complained in closed-door meetings this month that Obama must do more to counter a Republican stonewall.

With the Democrats' control of Congress in jeopardy, Obama has heeded his party's concerns. He has used his weekly radio address and public appearances to brand Republicans as out of step with mainstream voters.

Republicans fired back in characteristic unison on Monday, arguing that with an ailing economy, the president's emphasis on campaign finance reform was misguided.