President Obama on Wednesday asked Americans to embrace the economic recovery, seeking to parlay encouraging economic signs into political momentum for the final quarter of his presidency.
“We have every right to be proud of what we've got to show for all that hard work,” Obama told a gathering of autoworkers at a Ford plant near Detroit. “America's resurgence is real. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. We got the best cards and we are doing better than just about anybody else on earth.”
“I didn't want to wait for the State of the Union to talk about all the things that make this country great and how we can make it better,” Obama said, joking it was “like opening your Christmas presents a little early.”
The president revealed few concrete details, but did say that the annual address would be organized around the idea of “building on the progress that we've already made.”
“We can make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers American prosperity for decades to come,” Obama said.
On Thursday, Obama will travel to Arizona and announce that his administration is cutting insurance premiums on federally backed mortgages.
The next day, he’s headed to Tennessee to outline a new proposal for college affordability.
White House officials see the campaign as a way to put congressional Republicans, who have devoted much of the early congressional calendar to votes on ObamaCare and the Keystone XL pipeline, on defense. They also think the strategy can help tie Obama to a rebounding economy.
Central to that strategy is convincing voters wary about their economic security that things are getting better.
In Detroit, Obama repeatedly drew comparisons between the nation’s overall economic success and that of the auto industry. He noted that last month, the government had completed its involvement in the multibillion dollar bailouts of Chrysler and GM, and bragged that the companies “have now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration invested in you.”
Critics noted that the program began during the Bush administration, and that the president’s statement did not account for billions lost in the initial months of the bailout.
Obama also looked to claim ownership of the recovery, saying he decided to continue the bailout despite the advice of many in Washington, including members of his own policy team.
“I ran not just to do the easy things,” he said. “I ran to do the right thing, and saving the auto industry was the right thing to do.”
The president also played to the hometown crowd, noting their Lions had been eliminated from the playoffs last weekend on a highly controversial refereeing decision that the president labeled “a little suspect.”
“But all I can say — because I'm used to saying this, I'm a Bears fan — there's always next year,” Obama said. “And look, you've got a lot to be hopeful for ... and if there's one thing that you can take to the bank when talking about Detroit, it's that Detroit always comes back.”