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Obama to Return to Economy in Illinois Speech

Obama to Return to Economy in Illinois Speech

By Alexis Simendinger - July 24, 2013

It comes as no surprise that President Obama wants to reset his messaging before Congress escapes Washington for a long August holiday. Filling the airwaves with presidential speeches, travel stops, news media encounters, and images of the president doing summer-y things is a tradition of the modern presidency.

But the enormous White House wind-up for an economic speech today that aides say will be long on vision and short on news suggests Obama is beginning to work on another kind of agenda -- speaking to the history books. When the president began thinking it was time to remind Americans about the economy’s condition when he took office and its comparative stability now, the classroom review may have been conceived for his own final exam after he leaves office.

Just eight months ago, voters gave Obama an in-office economic grade when they re-elected him.

To encourage Americans to feel more secure, the president decided in July to revisit the long arc of their economic insecurities.

Knowing that chances for legislative success in the GOP-controlled House are slight, Obama signaled early this week that his speech at Illinois’s Knox College at midday won’t be a to-do list for Congress. Rather, White House aides said, the president hopes to “refocus” a distracted public and wayward media on middle class life in America, and Obama’s ideas about improving it.

It is time for a series of economic speeches, they added, because policy battles (gun control, immigration); foreign crises (Syria, Egypt); and what they call “faux scandals” (Benghazi, IRS, NSA surveillance) crowded the landscape during the last six months, which shifted the momentum of Obama’s presidency and dragged his job approval ratings below 50 percent.

The Knox College address -- the site of an Obama economic speech in 2005 -- will be followed by Obama appearances this week in Warrensburg, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla. Well into September, as the administration faces budget, immigration and health care law challenges, he’ll speak about his vision for education, housing, retirement security, health care, poverty, and jobs, his advisers said.

At Organizing for Action -- the policy advocacy offshoot to Obama’s former campaign operation -- staff members sent emails to supporters Monday enlisting help for what they called “Action August.”

“This August during the congressional recess, we're putting pressure on our members of Congress to act on the big issues we care about,” they wrote.

That has been their stated mission all year, but the gun control measures Obama backed in January and February never got out of the Senate, and the immigration reform measure he supported in the Senate appear to be stalled in the GOP-controlled House.

In remarks to OFA staffers and supporters Monday night, Obama said he wanted to lay out the story about the economy, the top concern for most Americans.

“The ground beneath our feet is a little firmer than it was,” the president said, “but we’ve got a long way to go before middle-class families feel secure and before those who are willing to strive to get into the middle class have more ladders or opportunity.” 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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