- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2011

President Obama on Wednesday punctuated his western swing with a town-hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley and a pair of fundraisers in San Francisco, shoring up his support among young voters and party donors while bashing the Republican budget proposal as “fairly radical.”

Mr. Obama’s events are part of a three-day, campaign-style trip as he hits the road to sell his plan to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over the next 12 years while raising cash for his re-election bid in the Democratic stronghold of California and the swing state of Nevada.

The president’s efforts come amid increasing disapproval among voters sour on the economy and increasing gasoline prices. They also take place against a fiercely partisan backdrop in Washington as Democrats and Republicans clash over spending cuts and tax increases.

Speaking to a friendly audience at Facebook that included 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Obama continued his sharp criticism of the GOP, labeling Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare and cut taxes “fairly radical.” He argued that his own plan, which calls for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy, represents a more “balanced approach” that doesn’t threaten the underpinnings of the nation’s social compact.

“I think it is very important for us to have a basic social safety net for families with kids with disabilities, for seniors, for folks who are in nursing homes, and I think it’s important for us to invest in our basic research,” Mr. Obama told the crowd at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social-networking giant. “We can do all those things, but we’re only going to be able to do it by taking a balanced approach, and that’s what this big debate is all about right now.”

Later on Wednesday, Mr. Obama — who earlier this month formally kicked off his bid for a second term — headlined a pair of Democratic National Committee fundraisers in San Francisco. On Thursday, he heads to Reno, Nev., where he will host another town hall at a renewable-energy company, later heading to Los Angeles for a fundraiser at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif.

The trip comes amid falling approval ratings for Mr. Obama, according to several polls. A Washington Post-ABC News poll out Tuesday shows a seven-point drop since January, with 47 percent of Americans approving and 50 percent disapproving of his job performance. Gallup’s daily presidential tracking survey shows an even bleaker picture, with only 42 percent approving of Mr. Obama and 49 disapproving.

Still, polls continue to show the president holding an edge over potential GOP challengers.

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama held a town-hall event at a community college in Northern Virginia. Like Nevada, the president won the Old Dominion in 2008 — breaking a 44-year GOP presidential streak — but it’s expected to be competitive again next year.