Obama tries again to put economy on center stage

New York Times News Service /

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is restarting a major effort this week to focus public attention on the U.S. economy, a strategy aimed at giving him credit for the improving job market and lifting his rhetoric beyond the Beltway squabbles that have often consumed his presidency.

The new effort, which begins with a major address Wednesday followed by as many as six economic-themed speeches over the next two months, reflects how often world events, his political adversaries and his own competing agenda have conspired to knock him off that subject. Republicans were already mocking Obama on Monday, noting that his speeches were among many campaign-style efforts over the past five years to jump-start an economic conversation with Americans.

The U.S. economy has grown steadily but slowly for more than four years, with home prices, stocks and retail sales rebounding from their lows in 2009. The economic growth has not resulted in large job gains, but there has been a turnaround in longstanding pessimism among Americans about their financial futures. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in early June found Americans increasingly positive in their views of the nation’s economy. Nearly 4 in 10 in the poll said the condition of the economy was very good or fairly good, the most in Obama’s presidency.

“We have come a long way since the depths of the Great Recession,” Jay Carney, the president’s spokesman, said Monday.

But the White House strategy brings risks, given that the economy is not yet close to full recovery from the financial crisis. Carney quickly added that “we have more work to do.”

Even as they sought to build anticipation for Obama’s address at Knox College in Illinois on Wednesday, White House officials acknowledged the constraints on the president, especially since political gridlock in Washington has persisted through dozens of previous efforts at public outreach by Obama.