The same partisan dynamics could crimp Obama's ability to offer a second-term agenda. With Republicans likely to retain control of the House along with filibuster powers — if not an outright majority — in the Senate, bold new Democratic proposals might seem implausible.
Still, a range of scholars and operatives urge Obama to err on the side of ambition and specificity.
"We think the country is desperate to know where the president wants to take the country — his vision and plan in the face of weak recovery but more important, the long-term problems facing the country," veteran Democratic consultants James Carville and Stan Greenberg said in a memo released Tuesday. "The more robust and serious his plans are for American energy production and independence, for infrastructure and America's modernization, for advancing education and innovation, for getting health care costs down," they wrote, "the more the Republicans will look irrelevant."
Carville and Greenberg urged Obama to hammer at Romney's plans to preserve income tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while also cutting taxes on investment income that applies mainly to the rich.
Voters "are rightfully angry and increasingly populist," the two men said.
Troy agreed that Obama should risk being labeled too liberal if that's what it takes to defend his stimulus plan and auto industry bailout. Both initiatives generally got higher marks from economists than from average Americans.
The president can talk about the bailout "as a reflection of a government that is good, a government that works," Troy said.
He said the president should use Thursday's speech to "invite Americans back into the Obama narrative. He has to sell Brand Obama."
The president might skip many of the flourishes that wowed the crowd in Boston eight years ago. Instead, expect him to try to use the speech — one of the last remaining prime-time, heavily watched events of the campaign — to put the best possible face on a grim economy, and to convince voters that Romney would make it worse.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Charles Babington covers national politics for The Associated Press.
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