U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event in Washington December 13, 2011.
President Barack Obama will visit the political battleground state of Ohio next week, ushering in the 2012 election year with a speech focused on the economy, the White House said on Thursday.
Obama will visit Cleveland on Wednesday, just after he returns from a more than week-long vacation in Hawaii, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The president had put off his trip to Hawaii to wait for Congress to extend payroll tax cuts expiring at the end of December, which lawmakers eventually agreed to continue for only two months because of disagreements about how to offset their cost.
Efforts to broker a full-year deal for the payroll tax cuts, which the White House has said the middle class needs until the U.S. economy heals, are expected to hang over Washington in early 2012 and may be a major theme of Obama's Cleveland speech.
The Democrat will also seek to deflect attention from the Republican caucuses in Iowa and draw a contrast between Obama's economic vision and those laid out by potential Republican rivals for the White House in the November vote.
Carolyn Kaster / AP
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011.
Obama's re-election chances are expected to hinge on the state of the U.S. economy and particularly the jobless rate, which at 8.6 percent is several percentage points higher than before the financial crisis that struck just before he took office.
In Hawaii, Obama has been golfing, spending time at the beach with his wife and daughters, and enjoying dinners with friends. The Obamas went to church on Christmas Day, and on Thursday, they visited the Pearl Harbor memorial.