Obama’s State of the Union speech to tout manufacturing

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening will include a significant focus on manufacturing jobs, despite GOP criticism of his Jan. 18 decision to nix construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama revealed the planned focus on manufacturing at the tail end of an 83-minute meeting with business leaders serving on his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

The growing competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector “is a good news story … so we’re going to keep on pushing that and you’ll see that as significant focus in our State of the Union” speech, Obama said as he ended the Jan. 17 meeting.

The focus on manufacturing is intended to help jump-start his 2012 campaign.

The pitch may help Obama’s November campaign in critical swing states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and even Michigan, where his low job-approval ratings among blue-collar workers threatens to cost him the race.

In a Jan. 21 video at his campaign site, Obama said the speech would “lay out a blueprint for an American economy that’s built to last … And most importantly, a return to American values of fairness for all, and responsibility from all.”

The “big ideas” of his campaign, he said in the video, include “more good jobs and more products stamped with ‘Made in America,’ energy policy and programs for the education and training of workers.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Barack Obama)

Obama’s emphasis on manufacturing is part of a long-term strategy to attract blue-collar workers to his coalition, which now incorporates wealthy post-graduates, single women and minorities.

He’s been talking about manufacturing since he used the federal government to reorganize General Motors and Chrysler when their sales fell in 2009 to half their 2007 sales.

Since hitting bottom in 2009, auto sales by General Motors and Chrysler have slowly bounced upwards, prompting Obama to claim success for his reorganization of the two auto companies.

However, Obama’s decision to further delay the Keystone XL pipeline, following protests by environmentalists, weakens his claim to be helping middle-class Americans, especially among swing-voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, say Republicans.

Federal officials have reviewed the safety of the pipeline’s construction plan since 2009, but in November, and again on Jan. 18, Obama cited environmental regulations when he directed that approval be delayed until at least 2013.

“The president knows that the number one issue in America is jobs, and here’s an example [him killing] 20,000 direct jobs, over 100,000 indirect jobs,” that would be created by the pipeline, House Speaker John Boehner said Jan. 22 in a Fox News interview.

The “regulatory nightmare that’s coming out of Washington… [is] serving as a wet blanket over our economy,” he added.

After the speech, Obama will take a three-day swing through five states — including Michigan and four other critical states — during which he will attend fundraisers and give speeches.

The Jan. 24 State of the Union speech will also try to rally his base supporters by portraying GOP policies as unfair, elitist and corrupt.

The speech will call for “rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded, and an America where everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules,” he said in the Jan. 21 video.

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