President Obama speaks to reporters in the Brady briefing room.
(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - President Obama will kick off a several-weeks long effort Wednesday to barnstorm the country and press resistant Republicans to work with him to bolster the economy.
In the campaign, Obama will lay out his vision directly to Americans for how Washington and the private sector can put a charge into an economy that is improving only in fits and starts. He is turning to a tool - the bully pulpit - that has largely failed him on issues such as gun control and budget cuts.
This latest push will start with a major address at Knox College in western Illinois on Wednesday.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in an e-mail that Obama believes Washington "has taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country." Among the specific topics related to the economy that Obama will address in the coming weeks are job security, education and health care.
"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," Pfeiffer said. "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."
"We welcome the president's focus on the economy, but given that so many are still struggling after nearly five years, it's clear his agenda of higher taxes and higher spending isn't the answer," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
Obama chose the small town of Galesburg, where he has a long history dating back to his early moments on the national political scene, to start the push.
Former representative Lane Evans brought Obama to the community in 2003 to endorse him when the future president was a state senator and underdog candidate for the U.S. Senate. Since then, the small rural community has remained a personal touchstone.
He pointed to Galesburg in his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address - after the community had just lost 1,600 jobs at the Maytag plant to Mexico - as the sort of place that Washington needed to be paying more attention to. He delivered the commencement address at Knox College in 2005, which was his first major economic address and, according to Pfeiffer, "sowed the seeds" of Obama's economic vision.
"Our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we're all in it together and everybody's got a shot at opportunity. That's what's produced our unrivaled political stability," then-Sen. Obama said.
He again noted the struggles of the community in his 2010 State of the Union address, and he made an impromptu stop in Galesburg during a Midwest bus tour in 2011 to tout his vision of the economy.
In addition to his return to Galesburg, Obama will travel to rural Warrensburg, Mo., on Wednesday and Jacksonville on Thursday to deliver remarks.
It remains to be seen to what extent he will underscore his desire to see Congress pass immigration laws in his speeches. The Senate has passed immigration legislation, but the GOP-controlled House has showed reluctance.
The president has resisted wading too deeply into the immigration debate on Capitol Hill - strategy that he hoped would create a "permission structure" giving the most conservative lawmakers a chance to support the law without appearing supportive of the president.
But as hopes for the legislation fade, Obama may be cautiously stepping deeper into that debate.
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY