By Mark Felsenthal
NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday sought to woo women voters at a taping of the daytime talk show "The View," by flirting with his wife and bearing gifts for the hosts, but he could not escape tough questions on the economy that have dominated the election.
When host and veteran journalist Barbara Walters kidded Michelle Obama about bringing the president as her "date," Obama quipped, "I've been told I'm just eye candy here."
The appearance, which will air on Tuesday on the ABC television network, marks the first time the Obamas have appeared together on the one-hour show, which features four female hosts, including Hollywood icon Whoopi Goldberg, and is popular with middle-income women voters.
The taping in New York was squeezed in before Obama's obligations at the United Nations General Assembly's annual meeting, where he is delivering a Tuesday morning speech.
During the show, the Obamas joked about their upcoming anniversary and presented the hosts with White House cloth napkins, golf balls, candy and bottles of Obama's home-brewed beer. The couple's 20th anniversary will fall on the day of the first presidential debate, October 3.
"Our first wedding anniversary, I totally forgot," Michelle dead-panned.
The president jokingly responded: "Cold."
Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, are both fighting hard for the women's vote.
In 2008, middle-class women were key to Obama's presidential win, and Obama has worked to get them to the polls again. His campaign this summer renewed its focus on social issues such as birth control, women's health and reproductive rights.
Democrats have accused Republicans of declaring a "war on women," while Romney's campaign has slammed Obama's policies for weakening the economy and hurting women in the work force.
During the taping, host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a vocal Republican supporter, asked if the Obama administration had failed the middle class.
"Everything that we've done has been designed to deal with not only the immediate crisis, but make sure that the middle class, which had been struggling for a decade before that, is feeling more secure," Obama said. "The problems that were created aren't going to be solved overnight."
Hasselbeck also pressed Obama about his previous comments that he cannot end Washington gridlock just from the inside, telling him: "You are Washington, you're about as inside as it gets."
"The idea is that you can't change Washington just from the inside, you've got to mobilize the American people. When the American people are engaged and involved, then change always happens," Obama replied.
"We can't play just an inside game where special interests and lobbyists and big money and folks writin' big checks, they're the only ones who have influence."
Romney's wife Ann will also make a stab at winning over television viewers chatting with comedian Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" in her first late-night interview on Tuesday, according to the NBC network.
Ann Romney will give her thoughts on family life and the coming election, the network said in a statement.
(Writing by Margaret Chadbourn and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Karey Wutkowski and Todd Eastham)