WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama, defending his economic stimulus plan on its first anniversary, is dispatching his cabinet across the country to try to calm an anxious public as Democrats head into potentially devastating midterm elections.
A weeklong push to highlight the stimulus program's first year was starting with a trip Tuesday by Vice President Joe Biden to hard-hit Saginaw, Mich., to tour a small business, a jobs training program and a solar factory that all received Recovery Act dollars.
The vice president, who has led the administration's efforts to implement the stimulus plan, is expected to push Congress again to pass a jobs bill to help some of the 8.4 million people who have lost their jobs since this recession began.
Obama's fellow Democrats planned to tout programs putting people back to work under the $787-billion spending bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was touring a medical center in Atlanta yesterday; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was promoting stimulus projects in Virginia and Texas the same day.
In all, senior administration officials are scheduled to visit 35 communities before Friday to counter Republican claims the massive deficit-spending program has failed. Obama plans to surround himself at the White House Wednesday with people who have jobs because of the stimulus plan, then travel to Colorado and Nevada.
Obama's political team believes the bricks-and-mortar projects across the country could help Democrats stave off emboldened Republicans and their attempts to reclaim majorities in Congress.
Although voters have soured on the stimulus spending, individual components have fans across party lines. The tax cuts Democrats included in their bill have the backing of 70 percent of the public, according to a CNN poll last month.
Another 80 percent support the infrastructure investments, such as the water projects Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson plans to tout in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday.
Even so, 56 percent of the public opposes the broad plan, according to the CNN poll.
Biden is expected to give Obama a report today, assessing the stimulus' effects.