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updated: 11/22/2013 10:05 AM

White House urging Democrats to focus on economy

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  • Eager to draw contrasts with Republicans, the White House is pushing its economic agenda as it attempts to give Democrats something to talk about other than the troubled health care rollout.

      Eager to draw contrasts with Republicans, the White House is pushing its economic agenda as it attempts to give Democrats something to talk about other than the troubled health care rollout.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Eager to draw contrasts with Republicans, the White House is pushing its economic agenda as it attempts to give Democrats something to talk about other than the troubled health care rollout.

The White House is deploying Vice President Joe Biden and Cabinet members across the country, drawing attention to improvements in the still sluggish economic recovery and detailing the costs of last month's partial government shutdown.

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On Tuesday, Obama will address the economy during a visit to the DreamWorks film studios in Glendale, Calif., and next month he plans to host a summit of college presidents and business leaders to push for more college access for disadvantaged students.

The offensive comes as Republicans plan a continuing assault on the health care law by building an anecdote-based indictment of the Affordable Care Act as it goes through its critical enrollment period.

To buttress its case, the White House on Friday was giving congressional Democrats a polling memo prepared by Obama pollster Joel Benenson that argued that despite weeks of headlines devoted to the botched health care website, to NSA spying activities and Syria's chemical weapons, the top priority with voters remains the economy.

The White House message to Democrats is to focus on what they perceive as a key Republican vulnerability.

"The shutdown helped to cement a view of Republicans we have seen gathering pace throughout the year: That they are so focused on undermining the president they are risking our economic progress to make him look bad," Benenson's memo says.

Still, public opinion polls by several large news organizations show that Obama's standing with the public has also suffered, particularly in the midst of the health care enrollment slowdown and his unfulfilled pledge that all Americans covered by insurance could keep their policies if they liked them.

Obama's handling of the economy also polls poorly, a likely factor in the White House's efforts to raise the economy's profile and press for greater access to college for disadvantaged young people and to promote its support for an increase in the minimum wage.

Even in promoting the health care law, the White House this week drew attention to what it said were its economic benefits, pointing to data that show health care costs are rising at slower rates.

The White House is trying to reassure Democrats that it remains focused on resolving the problems with the health care law.

But it's urging them to turn their attention to issues important to families, like jobs, education and wages, "and not getting caught up in inside-the-beltway political dramas that have little bearing on their immediate wellbeing," Benenson's memo says.

Republicans, meanwhile, have developed their own "playbook," that calls on lawmakers to find anecdotes that illustrate problems with the health care law and to use social media, videos and fliers to distribute them to voters.

The 13-page memo devised by the House Republican leadership contains talking points, a fact sheet and examples of messaging designed to build opposition to the health care law.

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