President Obama will once again try to refocus the public’s attention and the political debate on the economy on Wednesday, delivering what’s being billed as a major economic address in his home state of Illinois.
The White House is trying to drum up support for the speech, but it’s a tough sell, given how often the president has launched similar campaigns in recent years.
Republican critics claim the president has publicly pivoted back to the economy numerous times, but to little avail. “Tomorrow the president says he’s going to go out and pivot back to jobs. Well, welcome to the conversation Mr. President,” House Speaker John Boehner mockingly told reporters at the Capitol today. “If the president was serious about helping our economy, he wouldn’t give another speech. He’d reach out and actually work with us.”
The president’s Wednesday speech at Knox College, the site of his first major economic address as a Senator in 2005, kicks off a series of events intended to reframe the economic debate ahead of key negotiations with Capitol Hill this fall.
The White House says the economy has always been the “central preoccupation” of the Obama presidency and that progress has been made, but that there’s more work to do.
“There is no question that here in Washington, at least, if not out in the country, there have been a great many distractions from the central preoccupations of the American people, which have to do with the economy and the need to ensure that individuals have good jobs,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday. “[The president] hopes and believes it’s essential that we set our sights high and that we look more broadly at the state of the economy and where we need to go as a nation as we engage in the discussions that we’ll be having in the next several months.”
Asked by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl about his repeated pivots, Carney explained “the fact is the president has repeatedly — you say 10 or 11 — I would say even more than that — focused on the economy in major speeches, events across the country, small gatherings, roundtables, throughout his presidency and prior to his presidency. And he will continue to do that because it is the number one most important issue in his mind.”
For those keeping track, here’s a look at some of Obama’s pivots to the economy:
February 2009: The president tells Congress “now is the time to jumpstart job creation” and his agenda “begins with jobs.”
November 2009: Meeting with his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the president says his administration “will not rest until we are succeeding in generating the jobs that this economy needs.”
April 2010: Obama goes on a “Main Street” tour, saying “it’s time to rebuild our economy on a new foundation so that we’ve got real and sustained growth.”
June 2010: The president declares a “Recovery Summer” to highlight the jobs created by stimulus-funded infrastructure projects. “If we want to ensure that Americans can compete with any nation in the world, we’re going to have to get serious about our long-term vision for this country and we’re going to have to get serious about our infrastructure,” he said.
December 2010: The president tells reporters “we are past the crisis point in the economy, but we now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth.”
August 2011: After lawmakers reach a compromise to avert default, the president vows “in the coming months, I’ll continue also to fight for what the American people care most about: new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth.”
February 2013: At the start of his second term, the president refocuses on job creation in his State of the Union address, saying “a growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.”
May 2013: Kicking off his “Jobs and Opportunity Tour,” the president says “all of us have to commit ourselves to doing better than we’re doing now. And all of us have to rally around the single-greatest challenge that we face as a country right now, and that’s reigniting the true engine of economic growth, a rising, thriving middle class.”
July 2013: The president says his speech Wednesday is going “to be the kickoff to what is essentially several months of us trying to get Washington and the press to refocus on the economy and the struggles that middle-class families are going through.”