Why Is Obama's Speech on the Economy So Important?

Obama needs to connect with voters in tomorrow's speech on the economy

Posted Sep 07, 2011

Thursday evening President Obama is addressing a joint session of Congress, detailing his new plans to jumpstart the American economy. Today's headlines are full of different accounts of what his plans might be, including hundreds of billions said to be allocated for additional economic stimulus.

Thursday's economic address might be one of the most important speeches of Obama's presidency, and may define where the nation heads economically and politically for the forseeable future. 

First, the economy is still struggling. Despite all of the economic stimulus efforts from the federal government, unemployment is too high, houses are not selling, prices seem to be rising, and the economy seems to be stagnant. The president needs to outline a plan to get the economy growing again, to get people back to work --- stewardship of the nation's economic well-being is one of the primary jobs of our president.

Second, the political situation requires that Obama take action. As I wrote recently in another blog post, Americans are in a bad mood. Much of that is likely due to concerns about the direction of the nation's economy, and to people's own recent economic experiences. Only serious action can pump up the nation's economy, and that is what it will take to convince Americans that the nation is again moving in the right direction.

And importantly for Obama's reelection effort, he needs to convince Americans that he is a strong leader. Recent polling from Pew has shown that as it has become clearer that the nation's economy is stagnant, the public's assessment of his leadership image has dropped: "Since May, the percentage saying Obama is able to get things done has fallen from 55 percent to 44 percent, while the percentage viewing Obama as a strong leader has declined from 58 percent to 49 percent. Fewer Democrats and independents now view Obama as a strong leader than did so in May (down 10 points, eight points, respectively)."

So Thursday's address is an important one, for both economic and political reasons. We'll have to see how it goes, what proposals he has to offer, and whether he gives a convincing address to Congress. Much will be riding on what he says, and how he says it.