Nightly News   |  September 02, 2013

White House makes big push for Syria plan

One-on-one meetings, phone calls and town halls, the Obama administration is trying hard to rally support for a missile strike in Syria. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> president obama , it has been a long weekend of laying the groundwork to get congress' seal of approval to take military action against syria . tomorrow the president's top advisers will continue to make the case as debate intensifies over what's at stake for the u.s. and syria . we begin with peter alexander at the white house . peter, good evening.

>> reporter: natalie, good evening to you. with a series of urgent calls and meetings, this has been a busy weekend for the president and his national security team trying to sell their case for strikes in syria facing deep divisions within congress. [ chanting ]

>> u.s. act now!

>> reporter: the fierce debate over u.s. military action in syria is not confined to washington. at a town hall in connecticut today --

>> the united states can't let dictators kill their own people and do nothing.

>> i really think for those war mongers who basically talk about going and shooting, et cetera , put them in the front lines, and let me see how they will fire.

>> reporter: the president's challenge, to convince skeptical lawmakers on both sides. those opposed to u.s. under intervention and those who insist it doesn't go far enough. john mccain and lindsey graham who met with the president today, afterward expressed optimism that the white house is developing a better strategy to undermine syrian president bashar assad and support the opposition.

>> if the congress were to reject a resolution like this after the president of the united states has already committed to action, the consequences would be cattleastrophic.

>> reporter: to win -- catastrophic.

>> reporter: to win what the white house calls a lobbying surge, everything is on the menu, a white house told told nbc news, including more classified briefings, testimony at congressional hearings , in-person visits, and one-on-one phone calls . but among those expressing reservations, members of the president's own party, democrats. many still hindered by the decision to invade iraq .

>> i don't see that any way that a civil war in syria and the fact that this evil man is using chemicals to kill his own people, through affects directly or indirectly our national security .

>> reporter: which is why the white house dispatched heavyweights including secretary of state john kerry for a conference call today with more than 120 house democrats. kerry saying the u.s. faces a munich moment and must act. tomorrow the senate foreign relations committee , natalie, will hold its first hearing on the issue. then tomorrow night the president heads out of town overseas, first to sweden, and then to russia for the git 0 summit where he will try to build international support.