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Obama hits the road: Why he's talking about the economy now (+video)

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(Read caption) President Obama to talk about economy
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It seems early in President Obama’s second term to commence legacy shaping, yet his schedule this week – packed with a series of campaign-style speeches heralding a strengthening economy and outlining new (or slightly used) fiscal proposals – represents a preliminary effort at just that.

The pivot is designed to allow him to claim credit for a modestly improving job market, while reiterating his administration’s focus on fighting for America’s middle class. The move also gives him an opportunity to turn away from the Washington-focused brawls (immigration and failed gun control legislation) and charged national debates (the George Zimmerman trial and race relations) that have dogged and distracted him so far this summer. Not to mention the international quagmires – from Benghazi to Edward Snowden – that have put the administration on defense for months.

“We have come a long way since the depths of the Great Recession,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Monday.

The president’s topical shift is a sales job that comes with risks because the economy has hardly roared back to full function. But it is a reminder that the last two presidential contests turned on which candidate would better steer the nation through tough economic times.

While Mr. Obama is expected to say he sees a strengthening economic climate, Republicans are likely to remind Americans that the “economy is treading water,” as a spokesman for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell told The New York Times.

The Republicans aren’t necessarily wrong, writes Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post's Wonkblog. “The president has watched some of his biggest economic initiatives falter since winning reelection,” he says. 

Mr. Tankersley cites a decrease in factory employment, despite Obama’s emphasis on increasing manufacturing jobs by one million by 2016, and a fall in median earnings, among other markers. He also notes that with all the talk of new job creation, many of those jobs are part-time, not full-time. Not bad, but not ideal.

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