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White House has an economic message to push

President Obama and his team are urging Democrats to start pointing to the economy -- an issue they used to avoid.
President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office of the White House to deliver a statement, March 20, 2014.
President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office of the White House to deliver a statement, March 20, 2014.
A couple of weeks ago, President Obama hosted a White House press conference and most of the questions dealt with international crises. Obama recommended patience.
"In my first term, if I had a press conference like this, typically, everybody would want to ask about the economy and how come jobs weren't being created, and how come the housing market is still bad, and why isn't it working," the president reminded reporters. "Well, you know what, what we did worked. And the economy is better. And when I say that we've just had six months of more than 200,000 jobs that hasn't happened in 17 years, that shows you the power of persistence. It shows you that if you stay at it, eventually we make some progress."
It was a fair point, but more importantly, it was emblematic of a larger message: the White House would love to focus public attention on the president's economic accomplishments. It's been a while since Obama and his allies have been comfortable enough with the economy to start to point to it as a success story, but the administration believes that point has arrived.

Congressional Democrats returning home to their districts ahead of this fall's midterm elections have been equipped with a 22-page economic report from top White House officials highlighting promising signs of rebound. The memo, obtained by The Hill, is another sign the White House is increasingly eager to draw voters' attention to the president's economic record as Democrats scramble to keep control of the Senate and fight to gain seats in the House.

There's always a risk with a message like this: Americans in a sour mood about the direction of the country don't want to hear policymakers talk about how much the economy is improved. They run the risk of looking out of touch in an election year on the voters' top priority.
That said, Democrats -- especially those in the West Wing -- also believe they have a compelling story to tell, and if they don't repeat, voters almost certainly won't hear it.
And while no one could possible describe current economic conditions as great, the progress is obvious for those who look. Take this morning's news, for example.

Job openings climbed for the fifth straight month in June, reaching their highest level since early 2001, the Labor Department said Tuesday. The latest figures, from Labor's Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey -- or JOLTS for short -- offer further evidence of the job market's growing strength this year.

The same report showed the number of workers quitting their jobs rising to the highest level in more than six years. Why is that good news? Because in the midst of a job crisis, the number of people voluntarily giving up their jobs shrinks -- there just aren't enough new jobs to transition to. When the number of people quitting goes up, it's generally a reflection of economic confidence -- workers are comfortable giving up a job they don't want, optimistic that something else will turn up.
That, combined with higher GDP and vastly improved domestic manufacturing, suggests to the White House that it's time for Democrats to start talking up an issue they used to avoid.

"Manufacturing is back," [Obama said in Kansas City]. And "our energy, our technology, our auto industries, they're all booming." The president contrasted those encouraging signs with the economy he inherited — and took credit for the recovery. "None of this is an accident," Obama said on Wednesday. "It's thanks to the decisions we made early on. And now America has recovered faster and come farther than just about any other advanced country on earth."