Obama's Economic Roadshow: Will More Speeches Matter?

President Obama plans to unveil 'new ideas' to boost economy.

July 22, 2013, 11:02 AM

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2013 — -- We've seen this movie before. But will the ending be any different this time?

With fanfare befitting a summer blockbuster (or a royal birth), the White House is trumpeting a forthcoming series of speeches by President Obama that will "lay out his vision for rebuilding an economy that puts the middle class…front and center."

The first address will take place Wednesday in Galesburg, Ill., at Knox College, where eight years ago a young U.S. Sen. Obama first laid out his economic vision on a national stage.

"The president will talk about the progress we've made together, the challenges that remain, and the path forward," the White House said in a statement.

If the message sounds familiar, it's because it is. And the partisan politics causing gridlock in Washington are still the same, too.

So why take a road trip to give more speeches?

"In a couple of months, we will face some more critical budget deadlines that require Congressional action," senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer explained in a mass-email Sunday night. "The president wants to talk about the issues that should be at the core of that debate."

In other words, Obama wants to bolster his position with the public and rally his base ahead of another round of familiar fights with Republicans over the federal budget and debt limit coming this fall.

Obama's approval rating, buffeted by a series of early second-term scandals, has been on a slide – down for a second consecutive quarter in Gallup's daily tracking polls to 47.9 percent on average between April and July. In the quarter he was re-elected, Obama's average approval was 51.9 percent.

Republicans have skewered the announced messaging blitz as a repackaging of old ideas with little chance of making an impact. Some say it's a sign Obama has become a lame duck.

"Speeches don't hire people. Speeches don't get things done in Congress," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.

By one count, the White House has announced at least eight similar presidential tours or campaigns to promote Obama's economic agenda, including the "Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour" in May. Few have resulted in substantive legislative progress on the president's economic proposals.

The "clearest indication the president's [economic] speeches will be a nothing-burger is how hard the [White House] is working to convince people it's actually not," Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said on Twitter.

Pfieffer says Obama's speeches will include "new ideas and new pushes for ideas he has discussed before." An administration official told ABC News the campaign will touch on manufacturing, jobs, health care, housing and education, but declined to provide details.

"Any idea would be more than what the GOP has offered," said Brad Woodhouse, former Democratic National Committee spokesman and president of Americans United for Change.

National unemployment was 7.6 percent in June with 11.8 million Americans looking for work. When Obama took office in January 2009, unemployment was 7.8 percent; it later peaked at 10 percent before steadily improving.

Administration officials say any familiar themes in Obama's new series of speeches will reflect consistency in message and persistence of principle when it comes to his economic agenda.

But even though that message may have helped win Obama a second term, it's unclear just how many Americans are still listening and willing to join yet another campaign to lobby Congress on his behalf.

And even if they do, there is little indication that House Republicans are eager to compromise.

House Speaker John Boehner said flatly Sunday that, despite having "more regular conversations" with President Obama of late, he's determined to spoil any Obama-sponsored economic plans. "The president's policies are getting in the way of the economy growing," he told CBS' "Face the Nation."

As for Obama's second-term agenda, Boehner said he has "no idea" what that is.

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