Obama to visit Minn. mom who wrote him a letter

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) reads a letter from a citizen as he speaks to the Democratic Caucus about the need to pass the Health Care Reform bill on Capitol Hill on March 20, 2010 in Washington, DC. The House is expected to vote on the bill on Sunday, March 21. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Barack Obama
Joshua Roberts, Getty Images

President Obama is headed to Minnesota, where he'll meet a mother of two who wrote him a letter that got his attention, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante reports.

President Obama is often criticized for being aloof. But when he wants to show that he's in touch with the concerns of average Americans, and rally support for his agenda at the same time, he often pulls a letter out of his mailbox.

Every night, White House staffers cull ten letters from the thousands received for the president to read.

Mr. Obama often uses the writers of those letters to construct his political narrative, and show that he can relate to Americans on an emotional level.

One of the letter writers is Rebekah Erler, of St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, who the president is having lunch with Thursday.

"I was frustrated," Erler said. "I paid for my family's mortgage payment and our child care payment all on the same day and was really frustrated at how much it all cost."

The Erlers both work and have two children in preschool which, according to Rebekah, costs more than their mortgage.

"That was the moment I really decided like, 'Somebody has to say something about this,"' Erler told CBS News. "This is nuts. It costs more in Minnesota to send kids to daycare than it does to send them to in-state college."

Erler's letter fit perfectly into the president's agenda to emphasize the difficulties facing working families, and he used it as a talking point at this week's White House summit.

In 2010, as he tried to pass health care reform, Mr. Obama read to a group of insurance executives a letter from cancer survivor Natoma Canfield -- and later made her the centerpiece of a healthcare event in Ohio.

Thursday's presidential trip is just the first in a series of person-to-person meetings designed to position the administration, and Democrats, as more concerned about everyday Americans than Republicans. After lunch, Rebekah will join the president at a town hall event and some stops around town before he heads to a fundraiser for congressional democrats.