State of the Union: Obama Makes Case for Economic 'Fairness,' Second Term

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"If we drift, quarreling and paralyzed, over a Niagara of debt, we will all suffer, regardless of income, race, gender, or other category. If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have," he added.

The Indiana governor also pushed back on Obama's suggestion that Republicans in Congress were obstacles to adopting such a policy.

"They and they alone have passed bills to reduce borrowing, reform entitlements, and encourage new job creation," he said, "only to be shot down nearly time and again by the president and his Democrat Senate allies."

But Obama, seeking to claim the mantle of an active president who has offered compromise and been rebuffed, insisted tonight that he is not to blame, offering an olive branch to Republicans and a threat to stand his ground.

"As long as I'm president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place," he said.

Public Opinion Backs Obama's Approach

Obama's approach -- portraying himself as a "warrior for the middle class" in the face of a recalcitrant Congress -- hewed closely to a re-election narrative he's crafting based on polls of public opinion.

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Obama leads Republicans in Congress by a 13-point margin on who voters trust to better protect the middle class, 48 percent to 35 percent. He also leads by 8 points on who would be better on boosting job creation.

The public by 55-35 percent margin also says unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy is a bigger problem than over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity. That puts Obama on the more popular side of this central debate by 20 points.

Meanwhile, just 13 percent of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, its lowest rating in nearly 40 years of polling by ABC News. Obama's job approval rating in the poll stands at 48 percent.

One year ago, Obama spoke to the nation from a united House chamber, where members of both parties crossed the aisle to sit side by side in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"We will move forward together, or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics," Obama said at the time.

One year later, on many counts, members of both parties have shown they chose to stay put. And it's likely for the next 10 months they still will.

Obama takes his agenda on the road Wednesday to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Phoenix, Arizona. He stops in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Denver, Colorado, on Thursday, before ending the three-day swing in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday.

All stops on the trip are in key 2012 electoral battlegrounds.

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