By USA TODAY
It's a new kind of campaign for President Obama.
Rather than persuade independent voters -- as he did during his 2012 re-election campaign -- Obama now seeks to pressure congressional Republicans into backing a debt reduction plan that includes higher taxes on the nation's wealthiest.
To that end, Obama spoke Wednesday with an invited group of middle class Americans who would see their taxes go up if the White House and congressional Republicans are unable to strike a deal before the end of the year.
Obama and Congress are looking to head off the so-called "fiscal cliff," a series of tax hikes and budget cuts that kick in next year if the parties can't reach an agreement.
One key to a deal: George W. Bush-era tax cuts. Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, but eliminate them for filers who make more than $250,000 a year; Republicans oppose any increase in tax rates, saying they will stunt economic growth.
Promoting an agreement that includes higher taxes on the rich as well as budget cuts, Obama and aides have begun a public relations campaign that takes many forms.
On Monday, the administration issued a report on the economic impact of the fiscal cliff, including average tax hikes of $2,200 for the kinds of families invited to the White House on Wednesday.
On Friday, Obama visits the kind of business that would see its sales drop if the government drops off the fiscal cliff: A toy factory near Philadelphia.
The White House is also trying to drum up support through social media, including the new Twitter hashtag "My2K."
These events take place amid rising concern that the parties will be unable to reach an agreement, and the economy will face the sudden shock of automatic tax hikes and budget cuts.
"I think the probability is we're going over the cliff," said Erskine Bowles, the former co-chairman of President Obama's debt commission.
Republicans say they support the idea of new government revenues, but by closing tax loopholes, not by increasing tax rates.
GOP officials are also deriding Obama's campaign effort, saying he should be using the time to negotiate.
"Every week he spends campaigning for his ideas is a week that we're not solving the problem," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.