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Declining Polls, Negative Treasury Rating Cast Shadow Over Obama Budget Message

April 19, 2011 at 6:18 PM EDT
President Obama traveled to northern Virginia on Tuesday for the first of a weeklong series of town-hall meetings aimed at building support for his budget plan. The stop comes as two new polls revealed declining support for his presidency and a growing public anxiety about deficits and the economy. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama opened a campaign today to build public support for his ideas on cutting the federal budget deficit. It came at a time when public support for the president’s performance in office is declining.

The president went to Annandale, Va., just outside Washington, to road test a message he will take across the nation this week.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want everybody to be in the game. I want you to hold me accountable. I want you to hold all of Washington accountable. There’s a way to solve this deficit problem in an intelligent way that is fair and shares sacrifices, so that we can share opportunity all across America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama said his way of solving the problem means cutting defense spending and health care costs and raising taxes on the wealthy. But some programs would remain intact.

BARACK OBAMA: My view is we need to live within our means while still investing in our future — cutting where we can while investing in education, investing in innovation, investing in infrastructure, and strengthening the safety net provided by programs like Medicare so that they’re there for this generation and for next generations.

(APPLAUSE)

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama plan, introduced last week sets a goal of cutting $4 trillion from the federal deficit over 12 years. House Republicans have passed their own package billed as cutting the deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years.

The president’s events this week are meant to help win that argument. But he also talked up the chances for compromise today.

BARACK OBAMA: I believe the Democrats and Republicans can come together to get this done. It won’t be easy. But I’m optimistic. I’m hopeful. Both sides have come together before. I believe we can do it again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The focus on the deficit grew even more intense Monday, when one credit rating agency voiced doubt about getting a deal. It lowered its long-term outlook on the nation’s debt to negative, triggering a sell-off on Wall Street. But the markets have risen since then.

And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner insisted again today on CNBC that a broad consensus is emerging.

TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER: I think our challenge now is to lock that in, in terms of reforms that Congress passes, so that people around the world will look at the United States and know that we are not going to get this behind this problem. We’re going to get ahead of it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Two new polls today reflected growing public anxiety about deficits in the economy, with Mr. Obama bearing much of the fallout.

An ABC News-Washington Post survey found the president’s approval rating falling to 47 percent, a seven-point drop since January. Disapproval over his handling of the economy was up to 57 percent and 44 percent said the overall economy is getting worse, the most in more than two years.

Still, the poll showed Mr. Obama besting all potential Republican presidential contenders. A separate Marist University-McClatchy news survey found 61 percent disapprove of how the president is handling the deficit issue and 64 percent said they think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Mr. Obama will be looking to change minds and turn trends in his favor as he travels to California and Neveda later this week.