(CNN) - President Barack Obama takes his battle for health-care reform to two battleground states Wednesday.
The president will hold a town hall at Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina and another later at a Kroger supermarket in Bristol, Virginia, along the Tennessee border.
When the president leaves the nation's capital for events across the country, the location matters. And North Carolina and Virginia matter.
Both states hold important elections over the next year and a half. In North Carolina, Republican Senator Richard Burr is up for re-election next year. In Virginia, Democrats are trying to hold on to the governor's office in this November's election.
Next week, Obama campaigns in Virginia with the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate, Creigh Deeds.
While 2012 may be a long way down the political road, presidential campaign politics may also be at play. Both states are considered swing or battleground states, which both parties think they have a chance of winning and will fight for in the next race for the White House. Obama won both states last year, the first Democrat to win a presidential election in North Carolina since 1976 and Virginia since 1964.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Don't you just love a parade? Apparently the Obama administration does too, as evidenced by the steady stream of top U.S. officials visiting Israel this week. A bevy of heavy hitters are there, the likes of which haven't been seen since the Persian Gulf War.
Just as Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his meetings there, Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell arrived for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mitchell will be followed later this week by national security adviser James Jones and Dennis Ross, the White House's point man on Iran.
Aaron Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator under President Clinton and author of "The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace," calls it "the big hug," a show of reassurance to Israel that the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains strong despite the current squabble over settlements.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Family Research Council is launching a television ad attacking a public health insurance option as a plan that will shortchange seniors and increase access to abortion, as social and religious conservatives ramp up a pushback against President Obama's health care reform package.
The group said it plans to buy air time in five states with moderate Democratic senators, most of whom are considered possible swing votes on health care: Pennsylvania (Arlen Specter and pro-life Bob Casey), Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln), Alaska (Mark Begich), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), and Nebraska (Ben Nelson).
In the ad, an elderly couple is shown sitting at their kitchen table. "And to think that Planned Parenthood is included in the government-run health care plan and spending tax dollars on abortions," a man says to his wife. "They won't pay for our surgery, but we are forced to pay for our abortions."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is expected to ask the Obama administration for additional troops and equipment, according to a senior U.S. military official familiar with Gen. Stanley McChrystal's thinking.
The request will be for troops and equipment for conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as more assets to deal with roadside bombs and explosives, said the official, who declined to be identified because McChrystal's request has not been formally transmitted to the Pentagon.
The request could be made in coming weeks after McChrystal completes a "troop-to-task review" to calculate whether there are enough U.S. troops in Afghanistan - and the right mix of troops - to carry out the military's war plan at an acceptable level of risk, the official said.
The review could also lead to a request for additional troops for either combat or training of Afghan forces, but the official emphasized McChrystal has not made a decision on that. The military already has tasked an additional 4,000 troops to train Afghan forces.
The official said McChrystal is likely to submit his recommendations to Defense Secretary Robert Gates as a series of options, with each option having a level of risk attached to it.
"This will start the discussion" within the highest levels of the administration about whether to send a significant number of additional troops, the official said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A House Republican leadership aide is forwarding a memo written and distributed by a GOP House staffer, saying he has been informed by the House Democratic leadership they plan to leave for the August recess Friday without bringing health care reform to the floor, but Democratic leaders vehemently deny that decision has been made.
"Democratic Leadership has told Mr. Boehner's staff that there will be no vote on Health on the Floor before recess and we will leave Friday," wrote David Cavick, the Republican Chief of Staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Although Democratic leaders and aides have acknowledged the reality that, because conservative Democrats still have deep concerns over the direction of their plan, it will be very hard to hold a vote by Friday, Democratic leaders insist that decision has not been formally made.
President Obama originally called for a vote on health care reform from both the House and Senate before Congress breaks for its summer recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already announced the Senate would not meet that deadline.
When asked directly if he was telling anyone that they plan to go home on Friday, the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer angrily responded "no."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also told reporters no announcement has been made.
In fact Democratic leaders and conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats were still negotiating with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the House Speakers office Tuesday evening.
(CNN) - Workers are rolling out the red carpet for the president at a Kroger grocery store in rural Virginia, but President Obama could get a chilly reception when he appears Wednesday for a town hall meeting on health care.
Phil Younce, a frozen food clerk at the Bristol store, fears health reform is being rushed, just like the stimulus.
"Like the last package that we pushed through, I think it was too hurried, and a lot of mistakes, a lot of things that shouldn't be," said Younce, who voted for Republican candidate John McCain in the presidential election.
But assistant produce manager Cathy Montgomery voted for Obama, and she's pumped he's getting tough with Congress.
"I like the fact that he's stepped up, and he's being aggressive, I really do. I mean, I'm all for that," she said.
Obama's health care stop in Bristol is the second of two town hall meetings Wednesday. He also has an event scheduled at a high school in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Bristol, which is near the Tennessee border, is also where Obama kicked off his general election campaign after defeating Hillary Clinton in the primaries.
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