WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama, previewing a big push on the U.S. economy next week, yesterday defended policies he said "have stopped the bleeding" and put the middle class on the road to recovery.

Obama, struggling to bring down the 9.6 percent jobless rate, is to spend next week talking up proposals on improving the economy. He hopes to gain some traction with impatient voters as they ponder whether to toss out Democrats in the Nov. 2 congressional elections.

In his weekly radio and Web address, Obama pointed to measures funded by the Democrats' $814-billion economic stimulus as responsible for halting the economic slide he faced when taking office in January 2009. This includes spending on roads and bridges and money given to local governments to avert layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

"The steps we have taken to date have stopped the bleeding," Obama said. "But strengthening our economy means more than that." Other steps, he said, were aimed at helping the middle class, citing a portion of his U.S. health care overhaul that stopped insurance companies from refusing to cover people with pre-existing health conditions.

Obama is trying to convince Americans that Democratic policies offer the best economic future for them as he seeks to turn back a strong challenge from Republicans for control of the House and possibly the Senate.

He will visit a labor rally in Milwaukee Monday, the Labor Day holiday, and then will lay out targeted proposals to boost job growth when he visits Cleveland Wednesday. A presidential news conference is planned Friday at the White House. A number of options could be announced - from extending middle class tax cuts, investing in clean energy, spending more on infrastructure, to delivering more tax cuts to businesses to encourage hiring.

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