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GOP using President Obama's address to blame him for economy

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans took the offensive Tuesday and
cast President Barack Obama as the culprit for the economy's
persistent frailty, hoping to shift the focus away from his State
of the Union address' theme of economic fairness.

As they awaited the president's election season speech to the
nation Tuesday night, Republicans in the Capitol and on the
campaign trail accused Obama of three years of higher spending,
bigger government and tax increases that have left the economy
stuck in a ditch.

"If the president wants someone to blame for this economy, he
should start with himself," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell, R-Ky. "The fact is, any CEO in America with a record
like this after three years on the job would be graciously shown
the door."

White House officials argue that the economy has resumed growing
and generating new jobs on Obama's watch, though growth has been generally listless and the jobless rate remains at a high 8.5
percent.

One of Obama's themes will be economic fairness, including
protecting the middle class and making sure the wealthy pay an
equitable share of taxes. Republicans seemed determined to blunt
that message and prevent the president from making it the top issue
of this year's presidential and congressional elections.

"This election is going to be a referendum on the president's
economic policies," which have worsened the economy, said House
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "The politics of envy, the politics
of dividing our country is not what America is all about."

Boehner said nearly 30 House-passed bills aimed at helping the
economy have stalled in the Democratic-run Senate, most of them
rolling back or blocking environmental, workplace and other
regulations. He said he hoped Obama "will extend somewhat of an
olive branch" to work with Republicans on boosting the economy.

Despite that plea, Boehner planned a symbolic move to underscore
Obama's decision to put off, for now, work on the proposed Keystone
XL oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas' Gulf Coast.
Republicans say the project would create thousands of jobs, a claim
opponents say is overstated.

Boehner invited three officials from companies he said would be
hurt by the pipeline's rejection to watch the speech in the House
chamber as his guests, along with a Nebraska legislator who helped
plan a new pipeline route through his state, where environmental
concerns have been raised.

Poised to give the GOP's formal, televised response to Obama was
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who flirted with running for his
party's presidential nomination before deciding against it last
May.

The first White House budget chief under President George W.
Bush, Daniels has portrayed himself as a foe of budget deficits. He
has described Obama's fiscal policies as "catastrophic."

Obama was delivering his State of the Union address during a
rowdy battle for the GOP presidential nomination that has ended up
playing directly into Obama's theme of economic fairness.

That fight has called attention to the wealth of one of the top
contenders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and the low -
but legal - effective federal income tax rate of around 15 percent
that the multi-millionaire has paid in the past two years. Romney,
who is in Florida campaigned for that state's Jan. 31 primary,
released his tax documents for that period on Tuesday.

"The president's agenda sounds less like "built to last" and
more like doomed to fail," Romney said in remarks prepared for
delivery Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. "What he's proposing is more of
the same: more taxes, more spending, and more regulation."

Romney's chief rival so far, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich,
said in a written statement that the top question about Obama's
speech was whether he "will show a willingness to put aside the
extremist ideology of the far left and call for a new set of
policies that could lead to dramatic private sector job creation
and economic growth."

The Republican National Committee was airing a television
commercial in North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan and Washington,
D.C., blaming Obama for 13 million people out of work and citing
the bankruptcy of California energy company Solyndra, which
received more than $500 million in federally backed loans.

The ad shows an Obama interview from 2009, in which he said
about the faltering economy, "If I don't have this done in three
years, then this is going to be a one-term proposition," a
reference to his presidency.

The chairman of the House GOP's campaign arm, Rep. Pete
Sessions, R-Texas, also used Obama's speech to reach out to
supporters in an email.

"Unlike Democrats, House Republicans are fighting to strengthen
our economy and allow small businesses to create jobs for hard
working Americans," he wrote.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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