Obama Grants 4 Local TV Stations Interviews
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President Obama heads just outside the Washington today to sell his deficit reduction plan. He'll hold a town hall meeting in the battleground state of Virginia. Tomorrow, he goes out west for similar town halls in Nevada and at the headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto, California.
As Mr. Obama gears up his reelection effort, part of his strategy is to give some coveted one-on-one interviews to local television stations in key states. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.
MARA LIASSON: Yesterday, President Obama sat for a round robin of television interviews. Not with the anchors of the big national broadcasts or cable networks but with four local stations -in Dallas, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina, Denver, Colorado and Indianapolis, Indiana. He gave them each about 10 minutes - and the White House got what it was looking for.
Unidentified Man: No topic is off limits as CBS 4 political specialist Shaun Boyd sits down with President Obama in the White House.
Unidentified Woman #1: WROL's David Crabtree talked with President Obama late this afternoon about the help that will be made available for our state.
Unidentified Man: President Obama granted four interviews today to television stations across the country. We were one of them...
LIASSON: An interview with the president is a very big deal in these local markets. Today's roundup included KCNC in Denver where Tim Weiland is the news director.
Mr. TIM WEILAND (News director, KCNC): The crew will work out of the CBS workspace at the White House and be live in our 5 pm and 6 pm newscasts and then live from the Capitol in our 10 o'clock newscast. So the person doing the interview is our political reporter. It initially requested that we send one of our news anchors to do the interview and we had said we'd prefer to send our political reporter.
LIASSON: Hmm, good choice. Weiland's station hasn't had an interview with the president since he was in Colorado in 2008 to accept the democratic nomination, but he has a pretty good idea of why the White House picked KCNC.
Mr. WEILAND: It certainly doesn't hurt that we're a battleground state. We were a battleground state in the last election. We'll be a battleground state in 2012.
LIASSON: The same is true for one of the other stations the president talked to yesterday, WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina - a state the president won in 2008 and plans to fight for again in 2012. As for the other two stations the president talked to, this early in the cycle the White House can still dream about winning Indiana again or maybe even expanding its electoral ambitions to Texas.
Rick Ridder is a Democratic strategist based in Colorado. He says the media strategy behind this kind of outreach is simple and it illustrates the old adage that all politics is local.
Mr. RICK RIDDER (Democratic strategist; President, RBI Strategies): This gives the president an opportunity to talk about regional issues to individuals who are quite clearly versed in it. It creates a much more personal interaction between the president and the local anchor to have them sitting in the White House speaking with the president one-on-one. And it allows the president to look like that he is actively engaged in the soliciting the views of voters outside of Washington.
LIASSON: And those views may not be the same as those inside the beltway. There were hardly any questions yesterday about the debt and the deficit -Washington's current preoccupation. But there were questions about bark beetles in Colorado and tornadoes in North Carolina. Talking about those issues may help the president reconnect with voters where they live, an important step for an incumbent getting ready for a tough reelection campaign.
Unidentified Woman #2: Our consumer reporter begged me to ask the president what his best money saving tip was. And he told me that his wife loves to shop at Target. And he also offered up this: get your house insulated.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Woman #3: There you go.
LIASSON: Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.
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