President Barack Obama embarked on a three-day, three-state swing Wednesday to highlight economic policies ahead of his annual State of the Union address later this month.
Obama will speak about the auto industry in Detroit Wednesday, housing in Phoenix Thursday and education in Nashville Friday.
“We have seen the American economy build up some more momentum, particularly in the second half of last year, and that's due to a wide range of forces,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “Some of that is due to very difficult policy decisions that this president made early in 2009 in the earliest days of his presidency. He had to make some pretty politically unpopular decisions to rescue the American economy. And the result has been not just that we staved off a second Great Depression but we’ve actually laid the groundwork for a stronger recovery that's actually the envy of the entire world.”
In Detroit, Obama will talk about the recovery of the auto industry and the manufacturing sector in general at a Ford assembly plant that local newspapers reported earlier this week is temporarily closed because of lagging demand for the small and hybrid cars it produces.
The trip comes weeks after the government sold its final stake in auto lender Ally Financial Inc. as part of the $85 billion auto bailout.
Earnest said Obama will tout the politically unpopular decision to rescue the American auto industry that he said “saved that industry, laid the groundwork for them to come back stronger than ever, but also revitalize the manufacturing industry inside the United States.”
In an interview with The Detroit News ahead of the trip, Obama said some of his team had suggested allowing Chrysler to collapse.
The question was not, 'Do we intervene?'” he said. “The question was, 'Do we intervene in a way that actually spurs the sort of restructuring that gives American automakers the chance to get back in the game,'”
In Phoenix, he is expected to unveil a new executive action on home ownership during a visit to Central High School.
Several lawmakers and veterans groups called on Obama visit the scandal-plagued Phoenix VA hospital during his visit, but Earnest said the president does not have plans to do so.
“The Phoenix VA was ground zero in the secret wait list scandal that eventually revealed massive fraud and the deaths of dozens — if not hundreds — of veterans due to delayed health care at VA facilities across the country,” said Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. “If President Obama wanted to get the ground truth — and send a signal of strong leadership — he would take the time to visit the Phoenix VA hospital.”
Obama returns to the White House on Thursday, but heads out Friday to Knoxville, Tenn. to release a proposal to improve access to college and a manufacturing institute. Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will join him in a visit at Pellissippi State Community College.
Obama will deliver the State of the Union Jan. 20 in front of a new Congress controlled by Republicans.