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Obama Tries to Pressure GOP on Jobs

President Obama during a Labor Day event in Detroit, Michigan, September 5, 2011 (file photo).

President Obama during a Labor Day event in Detroit, Michigan, September 5, 2011 (file photo).

U.S. President Barack Obama has a lot riding on the jobs proposal he unveiled to Congress this week. So much that political analysts say his own job could be at risk unless the public perceives some sort of improvement in the economy before next year’s election.

In one of the more impassioned speeches of his presidency, the president told Congress that it is time to put aside divisive politics and work together to get Americans back to work.

“The question is whether in the face of an ongoing national crisis we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy,” he said.

Democrats liked the tone and substance of the $450 billion plan to cut taxes for workers and businesses in hopes of spurring consumer spending and new hiring. Congressional Republicans were generally skeptical, but conservative presidential hopefuls were quick to retort.

“Mr. President, we cannot spend our way to prosperity," said Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry. "It does not work."

The stubbornly high 9.1 percent unemployment rate may be Obama's single largest 2012 obstacle. Even voters who helped to get him elected are skeptical of the president's latest effort to turn the economy around.

“He convinced me to vote for him the first time but we have given him four years and so far nothing has come of it,” said Grace Arroyo, a 2008 supporter.

An eye to 2012

Analyst Tom DeFrank says the president wants to build public pressure on Republicans to go along with at least some of his jobs plan or face the wrath of voters in the 2012 election.

“Obama is hoping that Republicans went home for five weeks this past summer and got an earful from their constituents who said we don’t like you any more than we like President Obama," said DeFrank. "Fix something or you are going to be out of office. I think he will get some but not all of what he wants.”

Rice University political scientist Paul Brace says the president would prefer to run for re-election with a growing economy. But with that unlikely, Brace says Obama hopes to at least share some of the blame with congressional Republicans.

“His second strategy is to change the debate, shift the blame," he said. "This was a problem that he inherited and the Republicans haven’t worked with him to solve it. And if he can succeed in that he might have a fighting chance.”

Approval ratings at nadir

In addition to economic headwinds, the president is also dealing with the lowest public approval ratings of his presidency so far, and John Fortier, an expert with the Bipartisan Policy Center, says low poll ratings complicate the task of selling the jobs plan to the public.

“The threat of him going out to the country and making his case is somewhat of an idle one," said Fortier. "The economy is not good and the idea that this would dramatically turn around the economy before the election is not so likely.”

The latest Gallup poll found Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, with 50 percent of those asked disapproving of his performance in office.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.