Rose Garden Budgeting

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The President is inviting top political leaders for a Wednesday morning chat at the White House, prior to his deficit-mending speech at George Washington University.

The speech is being billed as a “balanced” approach to deficit-reduction. White House spokesman Jay Carney used the term 16 times on Monday, and 18 times on Tuesday, when sketching the speech, sending a broad political hint that the president will call for significant tax increases, along with spending-curbs. “I will not preview the President’s speech, but I will say that the President believes there has to be a balanced approach… [that deals with] entitlements, tax expenditures, and defense spending,” he said Tuesday.

The outreach to congressional leaders is a turnaround from several previous episodes where President Obama made major announcements while providing little or no notice to elected legislators. But it also would add a little substance to his image-makers’ efforts to portray him as a presidential, non-partisan, adult deal-maker among Washington’s rival political camps.

The invitees include the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate. The invitees are Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Eric Cantor, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Richard Durbin and Sen. Jon Kyl.

These legislators are just emerging from a knock-down fight over the spending in the last several months of the 2011 budget. They’re next preparing to debate the terms under which the federal government’s debt-ceiling will be raised, and then will have to debate the terms of the 2012 budget, which is supposed to be completed by October. That’s a lot of political drama, and it will give the president many opportunities for more televised White House meetings that will boost his poll-ratings among high-income women and small-government social-liberals. Those groups tend to value compromise and cooperation, in contrast to ideological voters, such as progressives, libertarians and social-conservatives.

This emerging “Rose Garden” campaign strategy is likely to be complemented by turnout-boosting pitches to groups in the Democratic base. Those barbed pitches are already being thrown by Carney and other Democrats. The pending “House Republican [budget] plan fails starkly, in that it is imbalanced; it places all the burden on the middle class, on seniors, on the disabled, on people in nursing homes, through its rather drastic reform of Medicare and Medicaid — reform which in many ways is an elimination of the established entitlements that they represent,” Carney said Tuesday. The chief author of the Republican plan, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, was not invited to the White House for the Wednesday meeting.