Barack Obama
Carolyn Kaster  /  AP
President Barack Obama gestures during town hall meeting at North Virginia Community College in Annandale , Va., on Tuesday.
By
updated 4/20/2011 11:07:42 AM ET 2011-04-20T15:07:42

Stepping away from Washington's contentious fiscal debates, President Barack Obama is making a West Coast trip aimed at building support for his deficit-reduction plans and raising money for his re-election campaign.

In town hall meetings in California and Nevada, including one hosted Wednesday by Facebook, Obama will pitch his prescription for reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases for the rich.

The president's three-day trip is his most extensive travel since he announced his 2012 bid earlier this month.

That campaign could set new fundraising records as Obama courts high-dollar donors, as well as young people, many of whom were among the small donors who buoyed his 2008 campaign.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

Returning to that campaign's playbook, Obama will seek to connect with those younger voters through social networking sites like Facebook. The president's official Facebook page has more than 19 million fans, and he'll become the first U.S. president to visit the massively popular company's Palo Alto headquarters when he conducts the town hall there.

Approval ratings sink
Weeks of heated debate in Washington over long- and short-term spending has left Obama with some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. The numbers are even lower for the Republican-led House and Obama's potential Republican challengers.

Obama faces pessimism as he focuses on budget sale

Voters say they want Washington to tackle deep deficit reductions, and both parties are responding — Obama with his plan to cut $4 trillion, and House Republicans with a plan passed last week that seeks to cut $5.8 trillion in spending over 10 years. The challenge for the president and his Republican rivals is to also connect their efforts with the public's pressing concerns over persistently high unemployment and rising gasoline prices.

Obama's message is that any gains in furthering the economic recovery now could be lost unless lawmakers also tackle the nation's mounting deficits and debt.

"Companies might be less likely to set up shop here in the United States of America," Obama said during a town hall in Northern Virginia on Tuesday. "It could end up costing you more to take out a loan for a home or for a car because if people keep having to finance America's debt, at a certain point they're going to start charging higher interest rates."

Obama hits the road to sell deficit reduction approach

Social media push
Obama is using all of the resources at his disposal to make that case, from the town halls he'll hold this week to the interviews he's conducted with local television stations in politically important states. While GOP lawmakers are making use of a break on Capitol Hill to hold events with constituents to pitch their parties' fiscal plans, the presidency carries with it clear advantages.

"No member of Congress, no speaker of the House, no senator can command the public's attention the way a sitting president can," said Joel Johnson, a lobbyist and former top aide to President Bill Clinton.

In this age of Twitter, YouTube and dwindling viewership of broadcast evening news, a president must use every resource available, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

"It's a mix of traditional media, new media, national media, regional media," Carney told reporters. "You've got to reach Americans where they are."

Story: Candidates vie to star in 2012's 'Social Network'

Republicans acknowledge that Obama's 2008 campaign bested them at using social media to raise money and fire up supporters. GOP candidates trying to take Obama's job — such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who announced his 2012 campaign on Twitter, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has taped a series of videos for YouTube — are looking to borrow from his earlier campaign's techniques.

Jennifer Palmieri, who was a press aide to Clinton, said Obama is smart to use all the media tricks in his bag, but nothing will keep Republicans from attacking him fiercely. They just might have to work a bit harder at it.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Obama continues deficit reduction tour

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama continues deficit reduction tour

    >> on the east coast in new york. a beautiful, beautiful morning in new york city . you can tell spring is here. if you go to the top of the rock , 55 stories up, you can almost see across the street. we have with us today on the set nbc "time" magazine senior political analyst , the great mark halperin and also the former governor of vermont and former chairman of the democratic national committee , dr. howard dean , from washington d.c. , msnbc chief correspondent, norah o'donnell and the great willie geist . willie , so often i say we will go forward with the news without mika, because she's in france. this morning, it has the added value of being true.

    >> for once something you say on the show is true, based in fact.

    >> for once.

    >> write down this date.

    >> read cover to ?cover, never bound by the truth was the headline. that applies here as well. we're one year today. this means a lot to us, governor dean, in northwest, florida, we're one year away past the bp oil spill . a lot of us in northwest florida are asking, what's changed? it's kind of like wall street . willie read a story earlier we had this environmental disaster . you wonder whether washington even responded.

    >> i think there's truth to that. drilling is going up again, not clear how much regulation has been added and how safe it is, no results from investigations or at least not ones that have been published and widely acted on. on the other hand, the good news is the tourists are coming back and beaches weren't destroyed in northwest florida as most people thought they were. i think it's actually not as bad as wall street because i think wall street is starting their own disaster.

    >> i tell you what with northwest florida , the biggest challenge is pr. people think oil lapped up on the beach. i think we had one day we had a couple of tar balls go up on the beach. it ended up that was from, you know, like -- i don't know. not from the bp spill.

    >> you've been down there. those beaches are as white as they've ever been.

    >> they are. you've actually had an up close look at those beaches.

    >> facedown, are you suggesti ingsuggest ing?

    >> we made trips there from college.

    >> and you're talking about a near miss. near miss, near defined by three miles. what happened with michelle obama 's plane yesterday?

    >> the first lady's plane had to bail out and abort its landing on return from washington . a military plane got three miles within range of it and the safe distance is five miles. the first lady was never in jeopardy, thank goodness, but the faa, ? early reports suggest this was error by an air-traffic controller.

    >>> and can we show you the faa has animation. this is tj's animation. since tj did it, we don't even know if those are the right planes or not. nora, at the top of the show, the president sounded optimistic about a budget deal. what's his play there. you have republicans now sounding negative but the president still saying, i think we can come together, we can make this work out.

    >> wall street , as we saw on monday, does not think there can be a budget deal, the president sounding optimistic, tasked his vice president, joe biden , who marked the calendars may 5th , to have a completing with democrats and republicans . a lot of people think with the president's speech last week, he poisoned the well. you saw him moderate his tone to republicans . now, there is pressure from the business community and others to get this done. the deficit is no longer a game that can be played politics with, endangers america's not only economic security but national security .

    >> he did moderate his tone a bit but republicans lean forward. the president did hit the road again today and will sell his deficit reduction plan. this time on the west coast , his three- day trip will continue this afternoon. he will have a town hall at facebook's headquarters in palo alto , california and he highlighted his differences with the republican party over the deficit and repeated his call for everybody to do their part to bring down the deficit.

    >> if we don't close this deficit, now that the economy has begun to grow again, if we keep on spending more and that we take in it's going to cause serious damage to our economy. companies might be less likely to set up shop here in the united states of america . we won't be able to afford investments in education or clean energy . so we have ? to tackle this challenge. i believe the right way to do it is to live up to an old-fashioned principle of shared responsibility. that means everybody has to do their part. we can't just tell the wealthiest among us, you don't have to do a thing, you sit there and relax and everybody else , we will solve this problem. especially when we know the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest americans is by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care . or cutting children out of head start . it's not a trade-off i'm willing to make, it's not a trade-off that i think most americans think is fair. no matter what party you belong to. that's not who we are as a country. we're better than that.

    >> while the president was out on the road trying to get the republicans and democrats to come together, treasury secretary tim geithner remained optimistic, saying quote there was no risk that the united states will lose its top credit rating and washington has to make tough steps to get ahead of the budget .

    >> the president recognizes and leadership in the congress recognize we have to start to bring these deficits down. we can do that within our capacity to do. our challenges on the fiscal side are daunting and require difficult things but this is within our capacity to do without doing damage to the middle class and seniors and can do this in a way that leaves the american economy stronger.

    >> despite the fact their fight is still going on, on key issues over medicare spending, there may be signs of a long term budget deal and the republicans are sending eric cantor and jon kyl to deficit talks organized by the white house . not exactly sending an olive branch over to president obama . in a statement issued yesterday, eric cantor said, quote, i remain skeptical the administration will take this all but ignored its previous t - debt commission and president obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming to consider minimal spending cuts for the rest of this fiscal year. if the president and our democratic colleagues refuse to accept serious reforms that immediately reduce federal spending, house republicans will not grant their debt limit increase period. it sounds like republicans are going into these meetings talking tough. why?

    >> because the debt ceiling limit is their best leverage for the rest of this year and get a deal on their terms. they have proven twice now when they have leverage, had in the lame duck session , the tax cuts would expire for middle class unless there was a deal and continuing resolution from last year's budget , the threat of a government shutdown . when they have something like that, they've done pretty well in those negotiations and trying to make this their moment to get a deal.

    >> there's a lot of hosing going on, the president brings republicans over, we're going to come together and then he delivers a very tough speech. then the president goes on the road and says, basically, reach out and touch. now, eric cantor and the republicans are acting tougher than they have in the past, if you just judge by boehner's statements. what's going on here?

    >> that's why i think wall street responded the way it did, by downgrading what the s&p did. there's a real concern there could be any means of agreement. this gang of six in the senate, who are trying to come up with some sort of deal are not even really acknowledged by either the party leadership and what they're trying to work out. i'm anxious to see what's in their plan and i think the political realities are really difficult for each party. there's more in the " washington post " today. the poll, joe , how many people want cuts in medicare , just 21% support cuts in medicare . that's a real danger sign certainly for republicans even though they voted on the paul ryan budget deal. only 30% support cutting ? medicaid , on and on. i think there's real question about that. the other thing the white house is concerned about is after the president's really tough speech last week that made him very popular with progressives, according to the " washington post " poll, he fell among independents, a warning sign for this president. he won independents in the 2008 election and democrats lost them in the 2010 election and this president wants to make sure they're in his corner when he runs. all politics are part of the calculation.

    >> if he's losing independents because of that speech he gave with paul ryan there, that's why he's going out talking about how we're going to all get together, it will be fine.

    >> what norah said about politics, 60% people say we support this plan to reduce the deficit. 21% only support cutting medicare , 42% military spending , 45%. people like the idea but when you get down to brass tacks they don't want --

    >> the president is in good shape and republicans bad shape . i'll tell you why. that clip you all just showed is what presidents are supposed to do. every time there's a deal, the president will get credit and cantor will seem like he's complaining and whining about things that are obstruse. and they can't get a deal if the debt limit doesn't get raised, we will see catastrophic on wall street and republicans get blamed. this is a bad situation for republicans . they're trying to make the best of it. obama did exactly what he had to do yesterday, give a thoughtful moderate speech. everybody agrees we have to cut the deficit and he will get the lion's share of the credit.

    >> the ball is back in republican's court in a sense. they will never get medicare and medicaid reforms paul ryan proposed in his budget . democrats will never agree to change those programs so fundamentally. the question, if there is going to be a deal, they have to say, what will we accept in terms of medicare and medicaid , what kind of cuts? who pays and what can ? we do to find come mocome -- common ground. they can ryan plan because that won't pass with this president.

    >> medicaid for instance is growing by a 7% rate. ryan wants it to grow by 2% rate. most medical providers will call those massive savage cuts actually slowing down the rate of increase. the challenge is how do we do that for medicare and medicaid to sustain the programs?

    >> the fundamental problem is medicare and medicaid don't have a problem. the problem is the health care system . when you have costs going up at 2.5%, every program will see their cost goes up except kaiser and vas. the real trouble is the medicine. we know romney care is essentially obama-care five years ahead of where we are and now having to deal with the fact our reimbursement system across the entire scope of our medical care in this country, whether public or private is driving health care costs 2.5 times the rate of inflation. the reimbursement system is the same. i get paid much more than i need to, to people. the more i do, the more i get paid. that's nuts.

    >> and having that fight over payment system .

    >> they didn't reform the payment system under massachusetts under romney and the president didn't. nobody dears to touch this and the health care costs are hurting medicare and medicaid and the private sector cost.

    >> noah. let's dive into the polls, according to a new mcclatchy marist poll. 61% disapprove of the way the president is handling and 60% disapprove of congress and ? 63% support increasing taxes on the wealthiest americans , 64% and more democrats support that than anybody else followed by independent dentsz. 45% of tea partiers support tax increases on the rich and 45% of republicans . cutting medicare and medicaid spending to deal with the deficit, not very popular. so what does the president? what does the house speaker do with those numbers?

    >> these are very tough numbers the president has seen but the white house feels like they're on good footing. there are a majority plus of americans say the wealthiest should pay more. 80% think there should not be cuts in medicare . thy think wh -- they think when they set up that argument with the president and voters, this balanced plan will be much more popular. what's plagued this president is the economic situation that exists out there, joe . now we have gas prices . everyday, i look at gas prices and numbers go up, people are hurting, taking an additional chunk out of people's paychecks and income and i think the president and politicians are blamed for it.

    >> by the way, willie , a number -- sorry, i can't do it with a straight face. a number of tea party members who oppose -- who oppose slowing down the rate of growth for medicare - medicaid , 70%.

    >> 70?

    >> they like to tell government officials keep your hands off our medicare .

    >> medicare and medicaid are the two single biggest drivers of our long term national debt , which teaspoon members have been screaming about for a year. 7 out of 10 tea party members, according to this poll, don't want to touch medicare or medicaid . it is to laugh.

    >> those are ? still government programs, as i understand it.

    >> they are the biggest government programs. they are the fastest growing government programs. they are the government programs that if left untouched, will cause a meltdown of the u.s. economy over the next 30 years.

    >> you know what, joe , the largest contributor is the deficit in 2019 is the bush tax cuts .

    >> whatever. i'm shocked you circled the bush tax cuts .

    >> joining us on set, secretary of homeland security , janet napolitano . ted danson will be here.

    >> over the next generation, it is medicare and medicaid .

    >> ryan phillippe will be here and playbook of mike allen and tell us which gop nominee could come down to the wire.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments