But the White House fought back.
Asked on "Good Morning America" if the president had committed "abject surrender," Senior White House Adviser David Plouffe, shot back, "Absolutely not." He argued the president protected education, medical research, and programs that protect the most vulnerable. On NBC's "Meet the Press," Plouffe added, "programs like Medicaid, college loans, children's health care would be protected."
Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett said she is among the aides making phone calls to Democrats to rally support. Many of the members of Congress she has called were basing their initial opposition on early, incomplete reports of what is in the deal, she said. They were "initially skeptical," Jarrett said on MSNBC, "but when they see the details of the package, they're becoming increasingly comfortable."
A senior administration official who asked not to be named made the same point to reporters at the White House. Much of the initial criticism, he said, was based on "a very inaccurate version of the deal that was reported by a lot of folks." He added, "As we make the case to Democrats there will be a very different view of us." On Sunday night that official said, "Every quote you have from a Democrat today is based on most likely very inaccurate information."
While most of the White House calls were to members of Congress, the Obama reelection campaign was also reaching out to liberals at the grassroots. An official insisted that the effort builds on what the campaign already was doing. "Our whole field organization is set up to talk to the grassroots everyday," he said. "So that's certainly some of the outreach we'll be doing today starting with the video from the president to our e-mail list."
The campaign effort targets individual supporters rather than the activist groups based in Washington. But with potentially close votes still looming in the House and Senate, most of the action remained in the nation's capital.
"I don't think Democrats do think he gave away the store," a senior administration official said, challenging the accusation from many liberals in Congress. He said the White House is now making the case "that this was a balanced package.... It's done in a way that protects the low-income programs, has balance between defense and non-defense."
The official said he expects that the more people learn the details, "the more comfortable they'll become with it because it's done in a very careful way." The White House privately acknowledges, however, that it is unlikely to win over those Democrats "who simply don't believe in the necessity of deficit reduction." But, aides argue, those are in a minority in a party where most agree with the president that the deficit must be attacked.
"I think it's important for us as a party to show the American people that we're serious about deficit reduction, but we're going to try and do it based on our principles," the official said.