WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama sought on Wednesday to lift sagging confidence in his economic stewardship by enlisting the help of predecessor Bill Clinton, as a leading business group issued a scathing critique of the administration's policies.
Clinton, who presided over the 1990s economic boom, was to join Obama at a White House meeting with business leaders at 2:35 p.m. to encourage job creation and investment, including in clean energy.
Obama also consulted investment guru Warren Buffett earlier in the Oval Office as he gathered views on how to boost growth, the White House said.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading business group, issued a rebuke of Obama's economic agenda, accusing him and his Democrats in Congress of neglecting job creation and hampering growth with burdensome regulatory and tax policies.
Four months before the November congressional elections, Republicans have tried to paint Obama and his Democrats as anti-business.
Obama is increasingly turning to former President Clinton to help win over voters and the business community.
Clinton, seen by many in corporate America as sympathetic, has helped the White House by campaigning for Democratic candidates running in November's elections.
And Obama on Tuesday named former Clinton administration veteran Jack Lew as the White House budget chief to help cut the huge deficit.
With unemployment stubbornly high, polls have reinforced Democrats' fears of big losses in November.
A survey by The Washington Post-ABC News showed 54 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama's leadership on the economy. In a CBS News poll, only 40 percent of Americans said they approved of Obama's handling of the economy.
To counter such perceptions, the administration trumpeted an analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers that said government funding of clean energy, economic development, construction projects and other initiatives was spurring "co-investment" by the private sector.
The report, unveiled by CEA Chairwoman Christina Romer and Vice President Joseph Biden, estimated that Obama's $862 billion economic stimulus package had saved or created roughly 3 million jobs, and was on track to meet its goal of 3.5 million jobs by the end of this year.
"The impact of the fiscal stimulus suggest that the (Recovery Act) has raised the level of GDP as of the second quarter of 2010, relative to what it otherwise would have been, by between 2.7 and 3.2 percent," the report said.
"Real GDP growth is expected to remain steady in the second half of 2010 and throughout 2011."
Republicans disputed the numbers and said Obama was letting Americans down.
"No amount of Washington spin or fuzzy math can change the fact that the trillion-dollar 'stimulus' is failing by the Obama Administration's own standards," House of Representatives Republican Leader John Boehner said in a statement.
An open letter from the Chamber of Commerce also threatened to overshadow the White House analysis. The Chamber's letter gave Obama credit for stabilizing the economy and preventing another Great Depression.
"But once accomplished, the congressional leadership and the administration took their eyes off the ball," the letter said.
"They neglected America's number one priority -- creating the more than 20 million jobs we need over the next 10 years for those who lost their jobs, have left the job market, or were cut to part-time status -- as well as new entrants into our workforce."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it was "ironic" the Chamber was criticizing Obama's policies toward business, given corporate profits were up sharply in the United States.
"The Chamber has a different approach to certain issues but we have different responsibilities," he told a news briefing.
The Chamber released the letter to coincide with its "Jobs for America" summit in Washington on Wednesday.
A White House request to have senior Obama aide Valerie Jarrett address the event was declined because the offer came too late. The Chamber said the request arrived on Tuesday.