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Obama to speak about economy at Northwestern U., taking a break from global crises

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CHICAGO — President Barack Obama is delivering an economic address Thursday at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, a pitch the White House has long been planning to frame the midterm campaign's closing arguments. While Washington's attention was focused on a Secret Service scandal, Obama slipped away for an overnight trip to his family home in Chicago, just a short helicopter ride away from the speech site.

WHY ANOTHER ECONOMIC SPEECH?

The president has spent weeks consumed with international crises and wants to let voters know he hasn't forgotten about their financial struggles. "I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis," Obama said in an interview that aired Sunday on "60 Minutes." A CNN poll out this week found two-thirds of Americans said the economy would be their top issue when deciding their votes for Congress. They have just one month to make up their minds, and Obama plans to speak out more during that time on pocketbook concerns, including a jobs speech Friday in Indiana.

WILL HE SAY ANYTHING NEW?

Obama's challenge is to walk a delicate line between taking credit for an economic recovery without seeming to disregard continuing hard times. His aides say this speech isn't designed to lay out new policy ideas, but to explain what he's done to help the nation recover from the Great Recession. He also plans to acknowledge the reality that many Americans aren't feeling the recovery and argue that more needs to be done. His aides say he intends to be more presidential than partisan, at least this time.

WHY NORTHWESTERN?

Home court advantage. The former Illinois senator can't go just anywhere these days, with Democratic candidates avoiding the spotlight with the divisive president. Obama aides also thought a scholarly business school audience would be the ideal setting for an address scheduled to last about 45 minutes and dive deeper into the economic issues than a typical campaign speech. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama will be speaking to the "students who will have a hand in shaping America's economic future and leadership both at home and abroad."

HOW IS THE ECONOMY DOING?

Many important indicators are good — unemployment has been going down, consumer spending is up and housing prices are rising. The stock market hit new records in the past month, then softened in recent days. A big sign will be the jobs report coming out Friday. But although some of the figures look good, they aren't helping family budgets. "They don't feel it because incomes and wages are not going up," Obama said on "60 Minutes." He argued that Democratic priorities like raising the minimum wage, job training and road building will help. It's yet to be seen if voters agree.


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