President Obama this week will kick start a series of economic events, hoping to build a jobs-centered message in the wake of a series of distractions that have overshadowed his second-term agenda.
Obama will deliver an economic address on Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., which the White House is billing as an extension of the speech he gave there in 2005 — his first lengthy economic remarks on the national stage.
“This Wednesday, almost five years after the financial crisis fueled a devastating recession, and two years after a debate over whether or not America would pay its bills that harmed our recovery, the president will return to Knox College to kick off a series of speeches that will lay out his vision for rebuilding an economy that puts the middle class and those fighting to join it front and center,” Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior adviser, said in an email to supporters late Sunday. “He’ll talk about the progress we’ve made together, the challenges that remain, and the path forward.”
The White House is looking to show the public they are committed to the issue voters care about most: jobs. The president has been on the defensive after his administration delayed Obamacare’s employer mandate until 2015, details leaked about secret U.S. phone and Internet surveillance programs and the Internal Revenue Service came under fire for targeting conservative groups.
And last week, Obama was forced to confront the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin after being pressed for days to address the not-guilty verdict that enraged many of his supporters.
However, Obama has been emboldened by the Senate passing comprehensive immigration reform, a major victory for the White House amid an otherwise rough political patch.
Pfeiffer said Obama also will give speeches on education, housing, health care and entitlement programs in coming weeks — and the president will introduce “new ideas,” he said.
In addition, Obama will travel to Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday for another economic event.
Previewing the event for reporters, White House officials said the jobs speech at Knox College would touch on similar themes as a 2011 address Obama gave in Osawatomie, Kan., on income inequality.
Republicans have dismissed similar jobs pushes by the White House, framing the campaign-style events as an attempt to distract the public from slow economic gains.
But Obama will argue that the GOP has become obsessed with political sideshows rather than bolstering the economy.
“The president thinks Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball on the most important issue facing the country,” Pfeiffer said. “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.”