Obama Tries to Pivot Back to the Economy

His economic speech aims to stay on message amid news on immigration, Syria and Trayvon Martin.

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White House officials are trying to drum up media and public interest in President Obama's scheduled speech on the economy Wednesday, but it's a hard sell.

Republican critics point out that White House officials have declared that Obama would be "pivoting" to the economy on several other occasions, only to have his ideas either fall flat in Congress or lack anything truly new. He has also been diverted by various news developments that have captured the nation's attention, such as the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin trial in Florida.

This time, Obama advisers say he will begin another round of economy speeches with an address Wednesday at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he gave a major economic speech in 2005 as a new U.S. senator from Illinois.

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He has since given many economic addresses that his aides have labeled "major," including a speech at Georgetown University just after he took office as president in 2009, and a speech at Osawatomie, Kan., in 2011. White House aides say Obama will follow up the Knox College address with other economic speeches through the summer.

"The president believes that it is an appropriate time to address the very issues that concern most Americans," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters in what amounted to a preview of Obama's Wednesday speech.

"There is no question that here in Washington, at least, if not out in the country, there have been a great many distractions from the central preoccupations of the American people, which have to do with the economy and the need to ensure that individuals have good jobs, that they have the ability to take care of their parents in retirement, and they have the ability to pay for college for their sons and daughters; that the have affordable health care, and that they are able to save some money of their own for their retirement; that they're able to own a house or a home and that that house or home is not underwater."

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But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama's agenda is the wrong one. "I would argue the president's policies are getting in the way of the economy growing, whether it's Obamacare, or whether it's all these needless regulations that are coming out of the government. It's getting in the way of people wanting to invest in our economy. I used to be a small business man. I know how this works."

Obama and his team appear to recognize that he has been thrown off message by recent high-visibility news stories that have dominated the media, including the Zimmerman-Martin case, the furor over government surveillance programs, the reports of Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups and the crisis in Syria.

Despite all this, most Americans consider the economy as their top concern, and Obama wants to shown that he is on top of this issue.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.