EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - President Barack Obama laid claim to an economic recovery Thursday that he said has made steady progress even as he blamed Republicans for rejecting steps he said would help families with little to show for an upturn that has lowered unemployment, beefed up corporate accounts and fueled the stock market.

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) President Barack Obama laid claim to an economic recovery Thursday that he said has made steady progress even as he blamed Republicans for rejecting steps he said would help families with little to show for an upturn that has lowered unemployment, beefed up corporate accounts and fueled the stock market.

Promoting pocketbook issues in the homestretch of the midterm election campaign, Obama fluctuated between bullish assurances that the recovery was real and recognition that joblessness and low wages still afflict millions of Americans.

"These truths aren't incompatible," he said in speech at Northwestern University that marked a shift in attention from foreign entanglements to domestic concerns. "Our broader economy in the aggregate has come a long way, but the gains of recovery aren't yet broadly shared."

Obama offered a lengthy defense of his policies, from bailing out the auto industry to his health care law. He said that while he's not on the ballot in November, his economic policies are.

Underscoring the political climate just four weeks before congressional elections, he accused Republicans of rejecting efforts to increase the minimum wage, refinancing student loans or extending unemployment benefits and of pressing for more tax cuts for the wealthy.

"When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent, I find that a little hard to swallow," he said.

The speech comes after Obama has spent weeks consumed with international crises, but the White House had always planned to refocus on the economy to assure voters that he hasn't forgotten about their money struggles.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday found that the economy is the top issue for the Americans most likely to cast ballots in the midterm elections. Nine out of 10 consider it extremely or very important in deciding their votes for Congress. They have just one month to make up their minds, and Obama plans to speak out more during that time on pocketbook concerns, including a jobs speech Friday in Indiana.

As the economy shows signs of improving, Obama's challenge has been to walk a delicate line balancing getting some credit for an economic recovery without seeming to disregard continuing hard times.

Many important indicators are good unemployment has been going down, consumer spending is up and housing prices are rising. The stock market hit records in the past month, though it has softened in recent days.

The speech comes one day ahead of the government releasing its job report for September.

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Kuhnhenn reported from Washington, D.C.