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Obama's jobs plan: Can he create enough jobs to save his own?

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement demanding that Congress to pass extensions of transportation and avaition bills in the Rose Garden August 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama called on Congress to move forward in a bipartisan way to pass a clean extension of the Surface Transportation Bill, which expires at the end of September, and a clean extension of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization, which expires in mid-September. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Thursday evening, President Obama will command the attention of the full Congress and the nation in an address on the economy. The president aims to spur Congress into action and show voters once and for all that he has a plan to stimulate growth and spur job creation.

But with 14 months before the 2012 election, a combative Congress to work with and stubbornly high unemployment, there's skepticism as to what the president can do to create jobs - or to save his own.

Mr. Obama's plan could cost more than $400 billion. The White House hasn't officially released many specifics ahead of the president's speech, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday made clear the administration expects Congress to agree to at least some of his proposals, and to get results.

"These are the measures that... historically had bipartisan support, can be acted on very quickly by Congress, and can have a very quick and positive impact on the economy and on employment," he said.

The president's supporters are also hopeful. Asked whether a plan of about $300 billion in new stimulus would be bold enough, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told CBS News, "$300 billion is a lot of money, and if properly spent, it can make a tremendous difference."

Republicans, however, have said they flatly disagree with the president's approach and don't appear ready to entertain his proposals.

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"We certainly intend to listen politely to the recommendations the president has, but I think I can pretty confidently say everybody in the Republican Conference in the Senate thinks that we need to quit doing what we've been doing," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday. "Quit borrowing, quit spending, quit threatening to raise taxes, and quite having a big wet blanket on top of the private-sector economy by this explosion of regulations."

Instead of raising taxes, Mr. Obama will once again ask Congress to extend tax breaks - specifically, the payroll tax cut, which would cost about $120 billion. He's also expected to ask Congress to once again extend jobless benefits, at a cost of about $50 billion. The president will also call for a major school construction and infrastructure renovation project to the tune of $100 billion.

The president's plan could also include requests for a payroll tax cut for employers, aid for state and local governments, a new-hire tax credit, job training for long-term unemployed, the creation of an "infrastructure bank," a mortgage refinancing initiative for homeowners and other ideas.

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While a stimulus package in the hundreds of billions may be hard for Congress to swallow after a year more closely focused on reducing deficit spending, it's a far cry from the $787 billion package Congress passed in 2009.

"At best, this is the little brother of the stimulus package," Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, told Hotsheet.

Baker added that the White House is aware it can't pass another large package through Congress. "It was a different environment [in 2009], he had more support in Congress, and that's pretty much evaporated," he said.

This package, Baker said, will probably have some stimulative effect in combination with actions from the Federal Rererve. "It will perhaps ameliorate conditions somewhat, but it's not going to a major turnaround," he said. The actions Baker thinks would be needed for a major turnaround are simply "not possible in these political conditions."

The political conditions have predictably detoriated as Election Day 2012 draws closer, Chris Arterton, a professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management, told Hotsheet. "I think we're now well into the electoral season, and Republicans don't want to hurt the chances of capturing the White House in 2012," he said.

At this rate, the president could more effectively turn the economy around through executive actions rather than relying on Congress, Arterton added.

A day ahead of the president's speech, Republicans were already discounting it, making allusions to the 2009 Recovery Act.

"I appreciate the president's renewed focus on jobs, but the truth of the matter is we have very different opinions as to how to grow this economy and produce some sustainable jobs growth," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said. "Since the passage of stimulus plan... a net 1.7 million Americans are out of work."

Democrats have spent years defending the Recovery Act, pointing out that there weremore jobs added to the economy in 2010 than in the entirety of the Bush administration. Still, polls showed voters were unimpressed - in a January 2011 CBS News/ New York Times poll, 55 percent said the stimulus had no impact on the job situation - and Democrats have since dropped the word "stimulus" from their calls for job creation.

While Republicans seemingly succeeded in making "stimulus" a dirty word, Baker argued that the president could win public support this time around by offering a deal the GOP couldn't refuse.

That appears to be the White House's strategy.

"The measures he puts forward tomorrow night are the kinds of things that will help spur economic growth, that will lead to greater and faster job creation in the United States," Carney said Wednesday. "And those are the two things that Americans across the board are demanding. And they believe that Washington, of late, has -- rather than being helpful in achieving those goals, has been detrimental, especially this past summer during the debt ceiling fiasco. So he will be very aggressive in making that case."

If he wants to win re-election, though, Mr. Obama will have to do more than convince voters that Republicans are obstructing growth.

"The public has heard a great deal from the administration, from the president, about the importance of creating jobs over the years," Arterton said. "I think they're just about getting to the point where they don't want to her anymore. They want action, not just words."

Turning around the economy will be "absolutely critical" to Mr. Obama's chances for re-election, Arterton said. But the president will not only have to act, but act quickly. Studies suggest voters will start judging Mr. Obama's performance on the economy in the second quarter of 2012, Arterton said.

"He has nine months, until the end of May or June, to get the economy moving in a direction in way people can see there is progress," he said.