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Obama's Big Speech: Economy in Focus for State of the Union

"I am prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this governance by crisis where every two weeks or every two months or every six months we are threatening this hard-won recovery," he said last week.

The economy has rebounded significantly from the depths of the recession and has taken a back seat for Obama since he won re-election in November. He's instead focused on campaigns to overhaul the nation's patchwork immigration laws and enact stricter gun control measures following the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., in December.

The president also raised expectations for action this year on climate change after devoting a significant amount of time to the issue in his address at the inauguration.

But the unemployment rate is persistently high at 7.9%, economic growth slowed last quarter and consumer confidence is falling, so the economy could upend Obama's plans to pursue a broader domestic agenda in his final four years in office.

Tony Fratto, who worked in the White House during President George W. Bush's second term, said Obama has to show the public that he's still focused on the economy before he can get their full support for his other proposals.

"We're not in a position where he can blame anybody else for the economy now," Fratto said, "Now it's his economy."

Obama is expected to use his address to press lawmakers to back his immigration overhaul, which includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, and his gun control proposals, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

Voting rights groups expect the president to call for changes that would make it easier for people to vote.

"I think it's important to be able to do more than one thing at a time," said David Axelrod, who served as senior adviser in the White House and Obama's re-election campaign. "But the economy is an ongoing and significant challenge that you have to keep working on."

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