Obama Takes Jobs Speech on the Road

BY David Chalian  September 9, 2011 at 8:18 AM EDT

President Barack Obama; Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson

President Obama outlines the American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson.

The Morning Line

On Friday, President Obama will pick up where he left off Thursday night after laying out his $447 billion American Jobs Act proposal to a joint session of Congress.

“I ask every American who agrees to lift your voice: Tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now,” President Obama pleaded at the conclusion of his speech.

Mr. Obama will head to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s hometown of Richmond, Va., on Friday to begin his sales pitch. Next week, he’s scheduled to be in Columbus, Ohio, to do the same.

Despite urging Congress no fewer than 16 times in the speech to “pass this jobs bill now,” the president’s goal Thursday night was not to wrangle 218 votes in the House and 60 votes in the Senate in order to get the bill to his desk.

Instead, he sought out to accomplish three goals:

  1. Present a legislative plan to boost economic activity and create jobs to help prevent a double-dip recession some economists believe may be on the horizon.

  2. Show some fight and draw sharp contrasts with the Republicans in order to assuage concerns about what he stands for among many in his Democratic base.

  3. Indicate to decisive independent voters that he’s well aware of how disgusted and disappointed they are in a gridlocked and broken Washington and to join them in calling on Congress not to continue down that course.

He accomplished all three.


“The next election is 14 months away. And the people who sent us here — the people who hired us to work for them — they don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months,” President Obama said. “Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day. They need help, and they need it now.”

Per the Washington Post’s Dan Balz:

“White House officials hold out some hope that at least some of the measures Obama presented will eventually be passed and implemented, with the payroll tax cut the most likely. But they are also determined not to emerge from this battle with congressional Republicans as scarred and damaged as they were from the debt-ceiling fight.”

“Obama’s team believes it paid a price not only for raising expectations about the possibility of a grand bargain to reduce the deficit, but also by the messiness of the process — which led to something far short of that. In the battle over job-creation measures, the team intends to avoid a protracted series of negotiations with Republicans behind closed doors, as occurred over the debt ceiling.”

“‘We’re not going to sit in the Cabinet room for weeks at a time,’ said a senior White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the strategy candidly. ‘We’re just not going to do that.’”

The president and his team are well aware that with unemployment at 9.1 percent, there is no speech or message that can be delivered to turn around his approval ratings.

However, by putting forth a specific action plan for short-term job creation and economic stimulus to be followed in 10 days with a specific plan for $2 trillion in deficit reduction (including entitlement reform), President Obama has set the terms of debate for the next year as he travels the country in hopes of keeping his job.

REPUBLICANS REACT

The reaction by Republicans to the president’s jobs plan was a study in contrast, with GOP leaders in Congress appearing to be open to some parts of the proposal, while those running for the party’s presidential nomination — and the opportunity to challenge Mr. Obama next year — seemed focused on dismissing the measure entirely.

In a statement released shortly after the speech, House Speaker John Boehner said: “The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well.”

“It’s my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation,” Rep. Boehner added.

Rep. Cantor, meanwhile, told reporters at the Capitol that he would consider moving forward with some of the individual pieces of the president’s proposal and passing them separately.

“I certainly would like to see us be able to peel off some of these ideas, put them on the floor, vote them across the floor and get the Senate to join with us so we can actually get something to the president and make some progress as quickly as possible, ” Rep. Cantor said.

Still, Cantor objected to how the president framed his jobs plan. “We reject the all-or-nothing approach that he took tonight,” he told CBS News.

The GOP presidential hopefuls were far more critical in their reaction to the president’s proposal.

Rather than issue a statement, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney released a web video dubbed “960 Days,” which highlights a variety of negative economic numbers, such as “National Debt: 14 Trillion” and “Net Jobs Created: Zero.”


The video ends with a clip of the president delivering a line from his speech: “I am sending this Congress a plan that you should pass right away. It’s called the American Jobs Act.”

The next line of text on the screen reads, “Mr. President, you are 960 days late.”

Other candidates stuck to the traditional email statements, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who charged, “President Obama’s call for nearly a half-trillion dollars in more government stimulus when America has more than $14 trillion in debt is guided by his mistaken belief that we can spend our way to prosperity.”

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said: “The only remedies the president knows are temporary, government directed fixes. And even if the president’s plan passes, we already know it will fail.”

And former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also had some tough words for his former boss. “Tonight’s list of regurgitated half-measures demonstrates that President Obama fundamentally doesn’t understand how to turn our economy around,” Huntsman said.

With some Republicans in Congress suggesting they might be willing to support certain measures in the president’s plan, the question will be whether any of the GOP contenders eventually follow suit.

BARBOUR JOINS ROVE SUPER PAC

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour may have opted out of a presidential run in 2012, but that won’t stop him from trying to defeat President Obama from the sidelines.

American Crossroads, the Super PAC started by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, announced Thursday that Gov. Barbour will serve in a volunteer capacity to help with fundraising and strategy for its efforts in the 2012 cycle.

“Both Gov. Barbour and Karl Rove are prodigious fundraisers and brilliant strategists, and we are honored to have them both engaged with us,” said Steven Law, who serves as president of both American Crossroads and American Crossroads GPS. “We are reaching high in our fundraising goals because we believe this is going to be a destiny-shaping election for our country,” he said.

The group also doubled its financial goal from $120 million for the cycle to $240 million. As is usually the case with publicly stated fundraising goals, they are made low to help set expectations. So don’t be surprised if American Crossroads ultimately spends more than a quarter-of-a-billion dollars next year to help Republicans get elected.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the “Politics & Eggs” breakfast in Manchester, N.H., at 8 a.m. and meets with seniors in Exeter, N.H., at 10:30 a.m.

  • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman attends a meet and greet with the Republican Jewish Coalition in West Palm Beach, Fla., at 2 p.m.

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry holds a series of fundraising events in California.

For the rest of the campaign events going forward, be sure to check out our handy Political Calendar.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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