President Obama on Wednesday heads to Detroit, where the president plans to kick off a three-day pre-State of the Union trip with a visit to a Ford auto plant.


White House officials have cast the road show as an opportunity for the president to sketch out his vision ahead of the speech later this month while capitalizing on some of the political momentum gained last month.

"We want to keep it going," press secretary Josh Earnest said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday. "And our sense was that part of our success relied upon the president really being forward-leaning and trying to be provocative and lay out some policies and really demonstrate some forward movement. And so we wanted to pick that up right at the beginning of the year by laying out some new policy ideas that the president is going to talk about."

The trip to Detroit comes just weeks after the Treasury Department announced it had reached a deal to sell its last remaining shares in Ally Financial, the former financing arm of General Motors that helped auto dealers’ finance purchases. The sale represented the final government holding from the controversial 2008-2009 bailout program.

Earnest said Obama would talk about how he "had to make some pretty politically unpopular decisions," including the auto bailout, but argue they "paid off in spades for the American people and for the American workers."

The president began that effort with an interview Tuesday with The Detroit News in which he discussed the internal deliberation within his administration over the auto bailout. Obama said some of his team had recommended allowing the collapse of Chrysler.

“Part of it just had to do with the numbers and the weakness of the company at that time,” he said.

The president said he was ultimately swayed by a proposal offered by Italian automaker Fiat, which took a controlling interest in the American company.

“The Fiat proposal was plausible enough and the game plan they had for rebuilding Chrysler was sound enough and the workers in those Chrysler plants were hungry enough and dedicated enough that it was worth taking a bet on them and I’m glad we did,” Obama said.

Still, the president’s efforts to tout the recovery of the auto industry might prove more difficult than the White House had intended. The same newspaper reported Monday that the plant where Obama is speaking was temporarily closed this week because of lagging demand for the small and hybrid cars it produces.

After visiting Detroit, Obama will head to Phoenix, where a top aide says he plans to announce a new executive action on home ownership.

The announcement will “help more responsible Americans own a home, building on efforts already underway to cut red tape that holds them back,” senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said in a post on the White House website.

On Friday, the president will meet Vice President Biden in Knoxville, Tenn., where he’s expected to sketch out a new legislative proposal to improve access to college for young Americans. He’ll also announce the establishment of a new manufacturing hub.

The Obama Administration has help fund a half-dozen of the public-private partnerships, which seek to bring together private companies, universities, and federally backed researchers in a bid to spur job creation. The president has asked for funding to create 45 such institutes, based on similar public-private partnerships in Germany, in previous State of the Union addresses.

— This post was updated at 8:36 a.m.