Obama's balancing act on high-profile issues

By ERICA WERNER | December 10, 2011 | 8:41 AM EST

President Barack Obama waves as he walks across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to Blair House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, for a holiday party. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has broken with liberal activists on recent issues such as air pollution and contraception, and that's alienated those supporters as he's moved more to the political center.

Yet on other policy matters, Obama has found opportunities to strengthen his standing with his most committed backers. For example, he's delayed a decision on an oil pipeline that would run down through the U.S. from Canada and he's tried to boost gay rights overseas.

The maneuvering comes as Obama prepares to run for re-election in 2012 in a tough economic environment that has emboldened Republicans. He's looking to maintain support from crucial independent voters.