Story by: BRAD WATSON, NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
WASHINGTON — News 8 sat down with President Barack Obama at the White House Monday afternoon to discuss the economy, immigration and his approval rating.
The president this week is talking up his deficit reduction plan with town hall meetings in Western states. He met with News 8 for a few minutes to explain why he thinks his plan is better than the deficit reduction plan pushed by Republicans in the House, and why he wants to pitch his plan hard in Texas.
The president said his mix of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy offer a balanced approach compared to the Republicans who want cuts in spending and taxes.
We met the president in the Map Room of the ground level of the White House, where he said his deficit reduction plan is better — with its higher taxes on the rich coupled with cuts.
"We can take a more balanced approach, consistent with what my fiscal commission put forward, which says $2 trillion worth of cuts."
But in Texas, the president's plan is a tough sell.
"Texas has always been a pretty Republican state, for historic reasons," Obama said.
However, the president inferred that his election meant Texas politics was changing.
"We lost by a few percentage points in Texas," Obama said. That was followed by a gentle reminder that the figure was closer to 10 percent.
"If what you're telling me is Texas is a conservative state, you're absolutely right," he said.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry harshly and frequently criticizes the president over the health care law, EPA regulation on oil and gas industries in Texas and the budget. But the president hinted at hypocrisy by the Texas governor.
"Gov. Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help — which he happily took — and then started blaming the members of Congress who had offered that help," Obama said.
Houston Republicans and Democrats suspect the Obama administration skipped Houston to award retired space shuttle orbiters to states that would help in the president's reelection.
"That's wrong," the president stated. "That had nothing to do with it; the White House had nothing to do with it. There was a whole commission, a whole process; that's how the decision was made."
President Obama also said that an immigration reform bill still is not dead.
"The question is going to be, are we going to be able to find some Republicans who can partner with me and others to get this done once and for all instead of using it as a political football," he said.
And the president said he's not giving up on Texas. "I never write off any states," he said. "I love Texas."
After the interview, Obama pointed out that he doesn't like an interviewer challenging his comments.
"Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview, all right?" he said.
Of course, there's never enough time to ask all the questions, but on one that Texas Republicans keep bringing up — that the president is somehow targeting Texas — he said clearly, he is not.