Obama Pushing Debt-Deal at U-Maryland on Friday

By STAFF | July 22, 2011 | 3:30 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is taking his case to the public as the clock ticks down to an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the government's borrowing limit or default on U.S. obligations.

The president holds a town hall meeting Friday morning at the University of Maryland, College Park campus. It's a quick trip from the Beltway but will be Obama's first public appearance this month outside what he calls the White House "bubble." The president has been occupied with near-daily negotiations with congressional leaders on a deal to raise the debt limit.

The town hall session comes amid some signs of progress. But Obama still faces a big selling job, given Democratic unease with cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs and Republican opposition to tax increases.

Later, his attention shifts overseas as New Zealand's prime minister, John Key, pays a visit. The White House says the two leaders will discuss stability and growth in the Asia Pacific region as well as Afghanistan and the famine in East Africa. They're expected to speak to reporters afterward.

The president meets with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, afterward. Defense officials say the Pentagon chief has decided to end the ban on gays serving openly in military and an announcement is expected Friday.

Obama later meets with the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry.