Obama will seek to remind the country, beginning with this week’s three scheduled speeches over two days, that the middle class remains imperiled by the lack of progress in Congress on his proposed job-creating measures and by Republican fiscal priorities. The push is meant to frame the debate around his economic agenda in the remaining summer months before Congress takes up some of his budget proposals this fall.
“The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country,” senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote in a mass e-mail Sunday that described the White House’s focus on the economy in the weeks ahead.
“Instead of talking about how to help the middle class, too many in Congress are trying to score political points, refight old battles, and trump up phony scandals,” he continued. “And in a couple of months, we will face some more critical budget deadlines that require Congressional action, not showdowns that only serve to harm families and businesses — and the President wants to talk about the issues that should be at the core of that debate.”
Since the start of his second term, Obama has spent much of his political energy working to avert a new fiscal crisis with Republicans and attempting, but failing, to win tighter gun-control measures in Congress.
Improving the economy — one of the chief reasons for his election and among the most difficult challenges he has faced in office — has faded as an issue in Washington amid steady if unspectacular job gains and modest economic growth. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in May found that 56 percent of Americans think the economy is improving, the highest number to say so since early 2009.
Obama won reelection in large part on a message of economic populism — a promise to protect the middle class from what he described as potentially harmful tax and budget policies promoted by Republicans.
He devoted much of the first State of the Union address of his second term to the same theme, describing the importance of the government’s role in training the next generation of workers for a new economy; building and improving airports, roads and trading hubs; and making college affordable for more Americans. But his agenda has faced stiff opposition in Congress, particularly in the Republican-controlled House.
During his travel this week to Illinois, Missouri and Florida, Obama will try to elevate the issue at a time when immigration legislation and foreign policy challenges in the Middle East are defining Washington’s political debate.