The nascent 2012 election campaign on Monday served up what might be the ultimate softball question to Barack Obama: "Mr. President, would you please raise my taxes?"
Former Google executive Doug Edwards, who said he has made enough from the search engine giant to choose unemployment, lobbed the question Obama's way during a Silicon Valley event hosted by the LinkedIn social network.
His intervention came as Obama makes the case that the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes as he seeks to cut the deficit and pay for his $447 billion jobs program, despite Republican claims of class warfare.
"I don't have a job, [I] worked for a small startup down the street here that did quite well," Edwards told Obama. "I am unemployed by choice."
He then added: "My question is: Would you please raise my taxes?"
Edwards later told reporters that he had never met Obama, but was invited to the town hall event by a friend who had links to the Democratic Party.
Edwards was a brand manager at Google between 1999 and 2005 and said he believes that Americans who could afford it should pay more money in capital-gains taxes to help the less well-off, and programs like infrastructure improvements.
Edwards looked set to become an instant media sensation as he was mobbed by camera crews after the event, and may find himself pulled into the fierce political argument raging over Obama's tax plans.
Obama, who answered an hour of questions from a decidedly friendly crowd, told Edwards that the two of them had become successful because "somebody invested in our education. Somebody built schools."
The president is in the middle of a five-city, three-day swing through the American West, mixing events pushing his jobs plan with big-money fundraisers for his 2012 re-election effort.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011