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Obama's plan to win 2012 presidential election takes shape

President Obama's State of the Union, along with the speeches that have followed, point to a blend of Kennedy vision and Reagan optimism to 'win the future' and fend off GOP challengers in the 2012 presidential election.

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Indeed, Obama's State of the Union message barely touched on the immediate issue of how to get 14 million jobless Americans back to work, not to mention the underemployed and discouraged workers who aren't represented in the 9 percent unemployment rate.

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Obama's State of the Union idea of "out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building" the rest of the world is "interesting rhetoric," says Republican pollster David Winston. "But a speech won't be enough. It will have to be, 'OK, what are you actually going to do...?' Ultimately, he's got a monthly report card: jobs. Either that changes or it doesn't."

Since the State of the Union, Obama has kept the rhetorical drumbeat going on innovation and investment in infrastructure. Last week, he traveled to Wisconsin to highlight a high-efficiency lighting company and to Pennsylvania to announce an initiative to improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings across the country.

On Thursday, he travels to Marquette, Mich., to promote his “national wireless initiative,” which aims to extend wireless coverage to 98 percent of the US population.

Obama has also kept up his outreach to the business community, delivering a highly anticipated speech Monday to the US Chamber of Commerce in which he implored members to hire and invest.

Last week, the White House held events focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, including a new “Startup America” initiative aimed at encouraging the private sector to invest in job-creating startup businesses. A companion initiative, the “Startup America Partnership,” features entrepreneurs – led by Steve Case, cofounder of AOL, and Carl Schramm of the Kauffman Foundation – who will aim to mobilize private-sector investment in startups.

If nothing else, the outlines of Obama's reelection pitch are coming into view. "Winning the future" is, in some ways, a more focused version of "hope and change," but with a cast toward the political center in its emphasis on entrepreneurship.

George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, sees multiple goals in Obama's new competitiveness narrative. First, it's a way to split the Republican business community off from the hard right, especially the tea party, Professor Lakoff wrote in The Huffington Post.

"Most business leaders want real economics, not ideological economics," says Lakoff, who has advised Democrats on how to frame issues. "And it is hard to pin the 'socialist' label on a business-oriented president."


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