Unlike most guests who come to ABC’s “The View,” President Obama does not have a new movie, album or reality show to promote.
Instead, he’s promoting himself and his agenda, sitting in the hot seat of the daytime talk show in an effort, once again, to go beyond the traditional media filter and speak directly to the American people, especially women.
With the appearance Thursday that was taped Wednesday, Obama becomes the first sitting president to visit a daytime TV talk show.
The president likely will use his time on “The View” to talk serious policy issues, but he could do that on many programs with many interviewers. So why sit down with “The View’s” feisty and opinionated five hosts? And why now?
You can see President Obama this morning at 10 a.m. on KESQ News Channel 3
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the decision was made to put the president on “The View” because it provides an opportunity “to talk to people where they are.”
“People have busy lives and it’s best to go where they are,” Gibbs said.
The president’s approval ratings have hit new lows, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Nearly six in 10 Americans say they lack confidence in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and a majority doubts his handling of the economy.
The ABC daytime program is unique because it is hosted by five women and its audience skews heavily female — a voting group that has trended Democrat and went for Obama 56-43 over Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the 2008 presidential election.
As Obama’s overall approval ratings have dropped, he also has lost support from women, from a high of 72 percent support in February 2009 when he was still glowing from the presidential campaign and inauguration to an approval of 51 percent today.
Obama’s support among men is in the same range — 49 percent approval today compared to 64 percent in February 2009.
Jessica Coen, editor of Jezebel.com, a popular website aimed at women, sees “The View” appearance as a prime opportunity for Obama to show some personality and “lay on the charm,” which she feels has been in short supply given recent challenges.
“You go on ‘The View’ and you sit Obama down with these women and some of them may fawn on him; some may not. But either way he’s going to be charming,” said Coen. “The target audience for ‘The View’ is going to appreciate and be reminded of Barack Obama’s personality when he goes out here.”
Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said given the fact that the show is hosted by five females and has an audience that skews heavily female, the White House may see the appearance as a great opportunity to do an extended sit-down interview on a program that is safe but also perceived as serious.
“It is a women’s program, helmed by Barbara Walters, and the female voice is very much the one that dominates,” he said. “It’s not a news show, but it’s a serious discussion show. I wouldn’t call ‘The View’ frivolous.”
Coen cautioned that while Obama excels in off-the-cuff situations, he might approach the appearance too casually at his own peril.
“Yes, it’s daytime television, but that doesn’t mean it’s light and fluffy,” Coen said. “Obama’s an intelligent man. He’s not going in there thinking he’s sitting down with the knitting circle. He knows what he’s getting into. But the risk would be if he plays it a little too casually, takes it a little too lightly.”
One notable Democrat who does not think it is a good idea for the president to go on “The View” is Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who implied that it is unpresidential and there may be better uses of the president’s Q-and-A time.
“I wouldn’t put him on ‘Jerry Springer,’ too, right?,” he said on MSNBC on Tuesday. “I think the president of the United States has to go on serious shows. And ‘The View’ is, you can make a case that it’s a serious show, but it also rocks and rolls a little bit. I’m not sure he has to go on ‘The View’ to be open to questions.”
The Obama White House clearly believes that the president’s message is best conveyed straight from the source and has made it a goal to reach as wide an audience as possible when the president wants to address key agenda items.
That generally has meant shunning traditional White House press conferences and photo opportunities in favor of one-on-one interviews aimed at specific audiences.
Gibbs said last year that “gone are the days where one outlet is where everyone gets their news or one medium is where everybody gets their news.”
Thompson agreed and said that politicians, especially those in campaign mode, need to put together what he called “a coalition of audiences” to convey a message effectively.
“There is no mass audience anymore,” he said. “You have to collect it like a patchwork quilt.”
The White House strategy has been to go beyond typical “news junkies” in order to try and reach a broad spectrum of Americans. That effort has included Obama talking about NASCAR and college basketball on ESPN, sitting down with Jay Leno and David Letterman on their late-night comedy shows and even giving an interview from the sidelines of a college basketball game.
Thompson said that while that may be a “fine strategy” during a campaign, it may not be best serving the president now.
“I’m not sure at this point if hearing more Barack Obama is going to be an asset or a liability,” Thompson said. “We kind of know what his response is to this oil spill, we kind of know what he wants to tell us about extending [unemployment] benefits and about medical care — all the things that he is talking about. I’m not sure if he’s in a place right now where he needs to reiterate a message but needing to do things that people will consider moving things along.”
The appearance is part of “The View’s” Red, White & View series, which has featured prominent American politicians and discussions on current political issues. Vice President Joe Biden made a guest appearance in April.
This is not Obama’s first time in the hot seat: He was a guest in March 2008 when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
At the time, he faced questions about the controversy surrounding his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
He also promoted his first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” in a 2004 appearance.
This time, Obama will face all five co-hosts, who come from a wide range of political views and backgrounds.
Barbara Walters, creator, executive producer and co-host of “The View,” will return to the set for the president’s appearance. She has been on medical leave after undergoing heart valve replacement surgery in May.
“We are so pleased and honored that President Obama will be a guest on ‘The View,'” she said in a prepared statement.
The interview on “The View” gives the president a chance to try to reach out to female voters, but it’s a tall order to expect one show to turn everything around for him.