The pressure is on President Obama to deliver a blockbuster plan to revive the economy, as the White House hypes his upcoming jobs speech -- amid a bungled rollout -- as a potential turning point in his administration.
When the White House first teased the public last month about the upcoming presidential address, some in Washington immediately panned it as just another jobs speech -- the kind he's delivered numerous times before turning his attention to other matters. This one is different, the White House says. Press Secretary Jay Carney described the speech as "significant," with economic recovery on the line.
Upping the ante, the president announced Wednesday that he plans to deliver the speech before a Joint Session of Congress, a venue reserved only for major speeches. Adding to the drama, Obama initially tried to schedule the speech for the same night as a Republican presidential primary debate. After House Speaker John Boehner objected, the president relented and pushed back the speech by a day.
The timing dispute drew more attention to the upcoming speech, putting added pressure on the president. Now it's competing with the much anticipated first game of the regular NFL season. The White House insists the speech will have started and ended before kick-off.
"It's going to be a very difficult high-wire act," Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said. He speculated that the White House has hyped the speech as much as it has because that's the only way to grab the attention of Americans inclined to tune out Washington's political leaders.
"They need to get that kind of focus to have any kind of opportunity to recalibrate the way people are thinking right now about the economy, and his presidency," he said.
But Trippi said the president is going to have to produce a "wow" response from his national audience.
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, also said Obama needs to come in with a proposal "big enough" to start bringing unemployment way down. He told Fox News that projections showing unemployment hovering between 8 and 9 percent well into the future are "unacceptable."
"This is a very big risk for the president," he said of the speech.
The administration claims the president will be presenting new ideas for the economy, beyond items he's been pushing for months like a patent reform bill and a set of international trade deals.
Carney declined to get into detail Wednesday, saying only: "It will be a significant speech with many elements to it." On Thursday, he explained why it has to be delivered in front of Congress.
"The reason why the president wants to speak before Congress is because this is an important moment in our economy and an important moment for the American people who are demanding Washington put an end to the bickering. .... They want Washington to work for them. They want sensible action," he said.
These sensibilities could include a blend a tax relief and unemployment aid as well as infrastructure spending. The latter is politically difficult to pitch, since Republicans often associate infrastructure spending with the deficit-growing components of the stimulus plan.
Carney, though, repeatedly said the president's proposals will be paid for.
Ahead of the speech, Americans may get another reminder of how bleak the economic picture is. The Labor Department on Friday plans to release unemployment numbers for August.
Poll after poll shows Americans growing less hopeful about the recovery. A Gallup poll Wednesday showed three in 10 workers are worried they could be laid off soon -- a level not seen since 2009.
The president's approval rating has also steadily declined since mid-summer, and now stands at 39 percent, according to Gallup. A separate Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday showed 52 percent of those polled disapprove of the president. Perhaps worse, 76 percent say the economy is in recession. The White House insisted Thursday that a double-dip recession is not on the horizon.