A new poll finds President Obama’s approval rating dropping to its lowest level in nearly two years, and near his all-time low.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released late Tuesday finds Obama with 45 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval…

Voters gave Obama low marks on the economy, with 51 percent disapproving of his handling and 45 percent approving.

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President Obama will once again try to refocus the public’s attention and the political debate on the economy on Wednesday, delivering what’s being billed as a major economic address in his home state of Illinois.

The White House is trying to drum up support for the speech, but it’s a tough sell, given how often the president has launched similar campaigns in recent years.

Republican critics claim the president has publicly pivoted back to the economy numerous times, but to little avail. “Tomorrow the president says he’s going to go out and pivot back to jobs. Well, welcome to the conversation Mr. President,” House Speaker John Boehner mockingly told reporters at the Capitol today. “If the president was serious about helping our economy, he wouldn’t give another speech. He’d reach out and actually work with us.”

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White House officials say this will show Obama’s consistency. “We plead guilty to the charge that there is a thematic continuity that exists between the speech the president will give in Galesburg, at Knox College on Wednesday, and his speech in Osawatomie [Kansas, in 2011] and his speech back at Knox College in 2005,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Yes, but this also risks sending the signal that, just six months into his second term, Obama is fresh out of ideas. There’s little hope of getting Congress to act on major initiatives and little appetite in the White House to fight for bold new legislation that is likely to fail. And so the president, it seems, is going into reruns…

I admire Pfeiffer’s pluck in trying to generate enthusiasm for what is largely a news-free initiative. And it’s smart politics for Obama to keep his emphasis on economic matters. But it would be easier to rally enthusiasm if he gave supporters something big, bold and new to reach for, rather than leftover proposals coupled with lofty ideals.

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Instead what the speech seemed designed to do is to re-state the arguments that worked during the campaign for Obama in hopes of framing the coming government shutdown and debt ceiling debates on friendly political ground for the President and Congressional Democrats. He did so more pointedly than he had in the past and with more urgency as well, pledging to spend the next several weeks touring the country — he will stop in Florida and Missouri later this week — making the case.

The Obama speech then wasn’t really about trying to ensure any near-term forward movement. Instead it was about positioning — both for the policy fights to come this fall and for the midterm elections next November.

In the near term, all sides know it won’t change a thing. Which may be as depressing a statement on how Washington works as any we’ve heard in a while.

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A look even further back suggests a remarkable stability in Obama’s numbers on the economy. In October 2010, just before Republicans won 63 House seats to reclaim the majority, 44 percent of Americans approved of Obama’s approach to the economy in Post-ABC polling. Go back a year before that — December 2009 — and Obama’s economic approval is 46 percent.

The numbers simply don’t move — or, if they do, they quickly snap back. No speech — no matter how eloquent or well delivered — can or should be expected to change that dynamic.

By this point in his presidency, most people have made their minds up — about Obama and about how he is doing on the economy. Speeches won’t change those minds. Then again, nothing else will, either.

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In response to President Obama’s speech today on the state of the economy, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said:

Today President Obama rehashed essentially the same economic speech we’ve heard for years: more government programs, more taxes. He’s out of ideas to fix the economy, and unwilling to do what it takes to remedy the harm his policies are inflicting.

Since the President took office, the average rate of annual economic growth has been a paltry 0.9 percent, compared to the historically normal rate of 3.3 percent. If President Obama truly cared about sparking economic growth and bringing opportunity to the American people, he would join the growing chorus of elected leaders calling for full defund of Obamacare – the single strongest step government can take to unshackle jobs, investment, and growth again in America.

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If you didn’t watch, here’s the short version: All the stuff he favored before? He’s still in favor of it. And he’s irritated that Republicans are blocking him from doing all the things he still wants to do.

I say “stuff” because that’s roughly as specific as Obama got. This was a policy-light speech, heavy on broad ideas, but incredibly light on details or plans, particularly new ones. (Indeed, in that sense, it was practically Romneyesque.) Instead, it was a preview of the economic themes Obama has in mind for the remainder of his second term: inequality, education, economic stagnation—and, most of all, congressional gridlock and inaction…

There isn’t, in other words, much he can do—or at least not much he can do that he also wants to do. And in Obama’s view, that seems to be the real problem. The speech was billed as a big reveal of the administration’s economic agenda—the New York Times preview article this morning was headlined “Obama Plans to Unveil his Agenda for Economy”—but in many ways it was just an extended complaint about presidential powerlessness in the face of political opposition. What it actually revealed was the president doesn’t have much of an agenda, except old ideas that have already failed to go anywhere. So in place of new policy ideas, he gave a speech blaming Republicans. That’s politics, and it will probably please many of the president’s supporters. But it’s not likely to weaken congressional opposition. If anything, this speech was a recipe for more gridlock, not less.

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Whatever you make of these ideas in general, they are unserious policy prescriptions for a stagnant economy. If the president was earnest about moving forward, he could have offered some sort of regulatory slowdown, or reprieve for small businesses, or a pipeline even. Instead, the GOP was presented with a grab bag of progressive hobbyhorses that he knows well have no chance of going anywhere. And isn’t that the point? Keep your heel on the throat of the obstructionists and win the politics of the day. The House and White House are ready to battle over the debt ceiling and budget and that’s all his speech was about…

And Republicans offer no inspiring alternative. It is incomprehensible that the GOP hasn’t devised some palpable and bold 10-step economic plan (with some nifty title like “A Better Bargain”) that deals with crony capitalism, government overreach and economic growth. Even before the speech was given, Eric Cantor’s office was touting Republican alternatives to Obama’s non-plan. 1 – Urge the Democratic controlled Senate to join the House and Pass a Job Training Bill. 2 – Approve the Keystone Pipeline. 3 – Support the Bipartisan Effort to Expand Offshore Domestic Energy Production.

Seriously? That’s it? All fine ideas that won’t inspire many voters. Obama says things like “The basic bargain of this country says that if you work hard, you can get ahead — you can build a secure life for your family, and know that your kids will do even better someday” and all Republicans can think of is to demand that the Senate pass a jobs training program? It’s quite a feat to be staler than the president, but it seems the GOP is up for the challenge. A free-market economy made that bargain possible, not a government-funded solar panel plant. Most people probably still get it. Obama has presided – and in many ways extended — the worst recovery in American history. He’s out of ideas. Republicans aren’t going to get a better chance to make their economic case. If they ever bother coming up with one.

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“We’ve got to set our eyes on the horizon. We will find an ocean of tomorrows. We will find a sky of tomorrows for the American people and for this great country that we love.”