With his presidency at a crossroads, President Obama will face the media Friday at his first press conference since the spring.
As an increasing number of political analysts predict Republicans will win the House this fall, Obama on Friday will defend his economic policies and hope to fend off questions about his weakened political standing.
The key for Obama will be to stay on message — vote Democrat or return to the policies of the George W. Bush administration — as reporters try to get the president to make news.
Obama addressed some of the most burning questions by sitting down for a TV interview while traveling to Cleveland on Wednesday.
In an interview with George Stephanopolous for ABC's "Good Morning America" that aired Thursday, Obama was asked repeatedly about Republican criticisms of his economic policies and the coming debate over whether to extend Bush's tax cuts.
Obama refused to threaten a veto over the increasing likelihood that Congress will extend all of the tax cuts for a year or two, which would hand the GOP a victory.
The president also voiced confidence that his party will win the midterm elections this fall, despite polls suggesting Republicans have a good chance of winning the House and an outside chance of winning the Senate.
“I am very confident that if people know what the choice is, if people take a look at what Democrats stand for and what Republicans stand for, who we're fighting for, and who they're fighting for, then we will win,” Obama said.
No matter the question, Obama on Friday can be expected to try to mark a contrast between his policies and those of Republicans. He'll try to build on the themes he offered in his speech on the economy this week in Cleveland, when he said Republicans have no new ideas or policies. Obama argues a new GOP majority in Congress would rule like the last one, which he blames for the recession and financial crisis.
“I have not seen a single new idea out of the Republicans," Obama told ABC on Thursday. "I have not seen a single proposal that any credible economist would say, ‘Boy, this is really going to jumpstart the economy.' "
That argument might not be enough for Obama and Democrats in a year when voters are frustrated with a sluggish economy and unemployment near double digits. Obama has argued his policies have prevented even more jobs from being lost. But those claims haven’t resonated, polls show.
Jason Johnson, a political science professor at Hiram College in Ohio, said Obama is suffering from the same problem Bush had when he said there had been no terrorist acts since his administration’s actions. Johnson pointed out that presidents usually don’t get credit for averting crises.
“I think the most important thing Obama can do right now is lay out some measurable accomplishments over the last year that he can point to, and then some measurable goals that can be accomplished over the next six to seven months,” Johnson said.
He added that Obama needs to build that contrast between Democrats and Republicans to rally his base, which has been disappointed with the administration on a range of issues. Surveys suggest independents are abandoning Democrats, while Republicans are energized.
Johnson said Obama should tell the left: “’If you thought you only got half a bag of oats this time, think of what you’ll get when the GOP holds the House.’”
“If that doesn’t work, the only thing that will is when the GOP does take over the House,” he said. Obama is likely to hear a range of other questions on Friday, including on the future of his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who may run for mayor of Chicago.
The president may have won a reprieve when Florida pastor Terry Jones called off his planned Quran burning, but questions about the proposed Islamic center in New York are sure to come up.
There's also the end of the combat mission in Iraq, the continuing conflict in Afghanistan and the president's new push for peace in the Middle East. But most questions will return to the election, which will shape the rest of Obama's first term and set up his expected run for reelection in 2012.