Political Notebook

President connects with voters in tweets

July 7, 2011

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WASHINGTON - So much for 140 characters or less. A president, it seems, gets to respond to a tweet on his own terms.

President Obama got an avalanche of questions yesterday at a town hall forum through Twitter, the popular social media service. Of the many thousands that streamed in, he answered 18 in a familiar, spoken explanatory style.

Obama’s first answer, to a question on mistakes made in handling the recession, was relatively short. It still amounted to about 2,300 characters - 2,160 longer than a tweet can be.

“I know, Twitter, I’m supposed to be short,’’ Obama conceded in the midst of another multilayered response about college costs.

The White House had warned this might happen.

“He’s the leader of the free world,’’ presidential spokesman Jay Carney said. “He decides how short his answers will be.’’

No one seemed that concerned. The broader image was one of a president up for reelection and eager to connect directly with those using the popular communication site, especially younger voters whose enthusiasm will be vital to his bid for another term.

So let history show Obama was the first president to host a Twitter town hall at the White House.

Obama wanted to get in touch with people outside Washington, promote his agenda, prod Congress, and embrace the fast-moving online conversation site that is increasingly seen as a home of national buzz.

The president started by sending out what he called his first “live tweet’’ by using a laptop set up on a lectern.

“How about that,’’ Obama declared to his East Room audience and those watching on TV or online.

His tweet set the tone of the economic discussion. Obama asked followers what they would cut, and what spending they would protect, to trim the deficit.

Overall, the town hall felt much like one Obama has had many times since taking office. Even a familiar critic got his voice heard.

Twitter selected the questions for the president, and one was from House Speaker John Boehner, who asked Obama, “After embarking on a record spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?’’

“This is a slightly skewed question,’’ Obama said of his political rival’s inquiry.

The president went on to answer Boehner’s question by noting that the economy is creating jobs, though not at a fast enough pace.

The town hall moderator, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, posed questions to Obama that had come in since the event began and read responses from those who answered Obama’s own tweet.

Obama fielded questions on college costs, immigration, collective bargaining rights, the debt limit, manufacturing jobs, the housing crisis, and many other topics.

As to that first question on mistakes made, Obama allowed that his administration had underestimated the severity of the recession and so he did not prepare Americans “for how long this was going to take’’ and the tough choices that lay ahead. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Romney reports taking in $18.25m in 2d quarter
Republican Mitt Romney plans to report raising $18.25 million during the second quarter for his presidential campaign.

The former Massachusetts governor said yesterday he still has $12.6 million on hand. He got donations from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

President Obama is expected to report receiving well over $60 million, the informal goal set by his supporters.

Romney’s aggressive fund-raising to date shows a determination not to repeat his reliance on personal funding. — GLEN JOHNSON