(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening to lay out a new jobs plan and make the case that he is best placed to keep steering the American economy toward recovery.
The prime-time remarks will aim to re-energize his political base and longtime supporters, appeal to uncertain 2012 voters and set the Democrat apart from his Republican rivals such as presidential contender Mitt Romney, who laid out his own jobs plan on Tuesday.
Obama will also try to stoke confidence in executives whose reticence to spend piles of cash has helped keep unemployment above 9 percent. Following are the main audiences he will target on Thursday and their views on his plans:
Obama's job approval ratings have plunged to an all-time low for his presidency because of discontent about his handling of the economy and failure to recover the 8 million jobs lost in the downturn that started before he took office.
His agreement to cut spending without new taxes during this summer's bitter debt ceiling fight with Republicans was seen as a setback by his party's liberal base, which sees his middle-of-the-road strategy as failing in a divisive Washington.
The jobs plan he will unveil on Thursday will be similarly conciliatory, focused on ideas the White House believes can get bipartisan support and also have a "direct, quick and positive" impact on the economy, White House spokesman Jay Carney said this week.
Obama's hope is that centrist and undecided voters will be encouraged by proposals that can pass even an austerity-focused Congress where Republicans control the House of Representatives. But the measures are not likely to be as bold as many of his core supporters would like.
His decision to present the plan in Congress also reflects a drive to shift responsibility to lawmakers to fix the economy and not have the cloud hover solely over the White House.
For Obama's jobs plan to be successful, he has to convince corporate executives the U.S. business environment is strong enough for them to spend their companies' cash reserves and hire more workers.
He will offer them incentives in the form of tax cuts -- including a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed -- and push for more public works projects, including school construction and repair, that could give a shot in the arm to real estate developers and infrastructure firms.
But his proposals are expected to fall short of industry demands for lower corporate income and capital gains tax rates, a "repatriation holiday" and tax code changes to prompt the return of foreign profits to the United States.
The Chamber of Commerce also wants more offshore drilling permitting in the Gulf of Mexico, development of the country's natural gas deposits and more trade with Europe and Asia.
Obama gave a feisty speech this week to union workers in Detroit in which he championed infrastructure spending that would put construction workers back on the job, an initiative in his jobs plan that labor leaders have called for.
Organized labor is a big Democratic constituency and stands to be a powerful force for Obama in industrial states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania that he needs to win in 2012.
His construction plans may disappoint major groups like the AFL-CIO labor organization, which want at least $2.2 trillion invested in existing schools, transportation and energy systems, plus $2 trillion to build a modern clean energy system. But labor will welcome the extension of unemployment benefits Obama will also announce.
Stock markets have been tumbling in fits and starts since mid-July when Washington became paralyzed over spending cuts and the debt ceiling, leading to a Standard & Poor's ratings downgrade that fed into unease about Europe's debt problems.
While Obama will not dwell on deficits on Thursday -- waiting instead until later this month to outline his views of how to secure longer-term budget savings -- he will stress in his jobs speech that the U.S. economy is on the right track.
He will also seek to assure major foreign holders of U.S. bonds such as China that the United States can afford new jobs stimulus and can find ways to offset their cost with tax increases and faster growth in the future.