Why President Obama’s big economic speech will likely change very little

July 24, 2013

President Obama and his senior aides are billing Wednesday's speech at Knox College in Illinois as a major moment in his second term, a unique opportunity to restart a debate over the right way forward for the nation's economy on his terms.

"Our goal ... is to lay out a vision and a plan, and then to just keep on pushing -- not just legislatively, but across the board -- so that we’re changing the nature of the conversation and focusing on what matters," Obama said in a preview of the speech at a fundraiser Monday night for Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group manned by several of his former campaign aides.

"Vision." "Plan." "Changing the nature of the conversation."  Obama was laying down a marker; this was going to be a b-i-g speech. Mark it on your calendars.

And yet, during that same OFA fundraiser, Obama acknowledged that no matter how lofty his goals or his rhetoric, the fundamental realities of the politics of the economy were almost certain to remain unchanged. "I’m excited about the speech, not because I think the speech is going to change any minds," he said.

Truer words were never spoken.

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 45 percent of Americans approved of how Obama is handling economic issues while 49 percent disapproved. A year ago, 44 percent approved of Obama's economic approach -- a number statistically unchanged despite the fact that the president swept to a second term thanks, at least in part, to making the 2012 election a referendum on his economic priorities.

A look even further back suggests a remarkable stability in Obama's numbers on the economy. In October 2010, just before Republicans won 63 House seats to reclaim the majority, 44 percent of Americans approved of Obama's approach to the economy in Post-ABC polling. Go back a year before that -- December 2009 -- and Obama's economic approval is 46 percent.

The numbers simply don't move -- or, if they do, they quickly snap back. No speech -- no matter how eloquent or well delivered -- can or should be expected to change that dynamic.

By this point in his presidency, most people have made their minds up --- about Obama and about how he is doing on the economy.  Speeches won't change those minds. Then again, nothing else will, either.

Fixbits:

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) apologized for a gifts scandal that has become the focus of his final year in office.

Anthony Weiner admitted to more sexually explicit Internet conversations.

The White House lashed out at House Republican leaders over immigration.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pushed back against Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on immigration.

Former New York governor David Paterson (D) for Congress? Maybe. He says he might run for the seat held by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) if Rangel retires.

Allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly tried to convince Republican Matt Bevin not to challenge him. McConnell's campaign denies the allegation.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) did not hold back in his criticism of White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland (D) is getting some big-time fundraising help.

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) moved his resignation date up to Aug. 2.

Must-reads:

"Ex-Politicians Hoard Campaign Funds Years Out Of Office" -- Gregory Giroux, Bloomberg

"Legacy on Line in Fierce Drive on Health Law" -- Michael D. Shear, New York Times

"The 7 Most Dysfunctional State Parties" -- Abby Livingston, Roll Call

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