White House preps congressional Dems on economy

Congressional Democrats returning home to their districts ahead of this fall's midterm elections have been equipped with a 22-page economic report from top White House officials highlighting promising signs of rebound. 

The memo, obtained by The Hill, is another sign the White House is increasingly eager to draw voters' attention to the president's economic record as Democrats scramble to keep control of the Senate and fight to gain seats in the House.

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The document was sent to Democratic lawmakers Thursday afternoon by Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients, who write that they thought the update would be "useful" for members "as you travel your states and districts this month."

It highlights a string of recent positive economic indicators, including six consecutive months of more than 200,000 jobs added, last quarter's 4 percent growth in gross domestic product, and a six-year high in auto sales.

Part messaging memo and part economic analysis, the document tells lawmakers that their "efforts to pass legislation that rewards hard work with fair wages, invests in education, expands apprenticeship and job training, builds on our automobile and manufacturing boom, and ensures those at the top pay their fair share of taxes will continue to be critical to moving our country forward."

It also provides rebuttals on issues like healthcare and energy that worry vulnerable Democrats, particularly in the Senate. The memo says that heathcare costs have grown at the lowest rate since the passage of ObamaCare, and notes that the economy has added 133,000 oil and natural gas jobs from 2010 to 2013. Republicans have said they plan to make ObamaCare and the Keystone XL oil pipeline central issues in toss-up Senate campaigns in states like Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska.

That the private report encourages Democrats to tout their economic messaging is only the latest sign the White House hopes to generate momentum — and repair the president's flagging approval ratings — by highlighting his economic successes.

It could be a tall task, with the president still tagged by tepid economic growth in his early years in office.

A CBS News poll released Wednesday night showed that a majority of respondents — 54 percent — disapproved of how the president was handling the economy, while just four in 10 respondents approve. Of those surveyed, 58 percent say the economy is bad, while just four in 10 rate it as good. Some 78 percent say the economy is getting worse or staying the same.

The survey also found that 38 percent of respondents said the president shared their priorities, with a majority naming the economy as their top concern. Overall, just 41 percent approved of the president's handling of the job.

But the White House has appeared eager in recent weeks to turn that around. At a speech last week in Kansas City, the president made a point of touting the positive signs in the recovery.

“Manufacturing is back,” he said. And “our energy, our technology, our auto industries, they’re all booming.”

The president contrasted those encouraging signs with the economy he inherited — and took credit for the recovery.

“None of this is an accident,” Obama said on Wednesday. “It’s thanks to the decisions we made early on. And now America has recovered faster and come farther than just about any other advanced country on earth.”

Still, Republicans say they're eager to have a conversation about the economy. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, literally laughed out loud when asked last week about the president's renewed focus on the economy. 

“The truth is, the weakest economic recovery in President Obama’s lifetime is his own,” the Republican lawmaker said. “We’re wildly applauding a C-minus economic performance.”