After months on the defensive, the president is trying to remake both topics into the selling points they were in 2008.
On Wednesday, he began a two-day energy tour that will take him to Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Ohio to champion investments in new energy sources and deflect Republican accusations that he is responsible for the jump in gas prices.
On health care, Obama and his allies have begun promoting the law anew in op-ed pieces and local appearances as the measure heads for a three-day hearing in the Supreme Court next week.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis have been dispatched to Missouri and Florida and to meetings with college newspapers, farming publications and Spanish-language media outlets. Several publications favorable to the administration are running op-eds by Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett touting the overhaul.
Watching as these issues continue to drag down the president’s approval numbers, advisers this week held briefings at the White House and at campaign headquarters in Chicago to promote their “all of the above” energy plan.
They are also targeting women and other groups with appeals showcasing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that polls find Americans most favor, including coverage for adult children and preexisting conditions.
None of this activity changes the reality that the health-care bill is a political vulnerability for Obama. In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of Americans said they want the Supreme Court to repeal at least some portions of the law.
But the president’s focus was on energy Wednesday as he visited the Copper Mountain Solar 1 plant in the Nevada desert to highlight the future of solar energy — and to ridicule Republicans for trying to trim federal funding to develop it.
“If some politicians get their way, there won’t be any more public investments in solar energy,” Obama said. “These folks dismiss the promise of solar power and wind power and fuel-efficient cars. . . . If these people were around when Columbus set sail, they would’ve been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.”
From a symbol of new energy, Obama traveled to a symbol of the old — oil and gas production fields on federal land outside Carlsbad, N.M., in another important state in the presidential election. More than 70 rigs are in production there across a plain of red earth.
White House officials have emphasized that, despite GOP contentions that Obama has turned his back on the domestic oil and gas industry, oil production is up 13 percent on federal lands over his term.