WASHINGTON – President Obama on Wednesday announced his intention to lay out a new jobs plan in a prime-time speech to Congress next week that strategists hope will set a new tone for his tenure.

The announcement provoked an instant confrontation with Republicans over the seemingly trivial question of timing, resolved only when the White House agreed late Wednesday to delay the speech by one day, to Sept. 8.

The dust-up underscored Obama’s dilemma as he attempts to show progress on the economy while distancing himself from a dysfunctional Washington.

Harnessing the joint-session speech — one of the grand symbols of his office — reflects a calculated attempt by Obama to regain an advantage in his bitter battle with Republicans over the economy, restore fast-eroding public support and, perhaps, turn around a presidency with less than 15 months before he faces the voters.

White House officials said Obama would lay out a much-anticipated package of new proposals to stimulate job growth, such as spending programs for roads, bridges, school repair and training for the long-term unemployed.

And yet even scheduling the address quickly turned into another partisan spit-fest.

It began around lunchtime Wednesday, when Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting an 8 p.m. speech next Wednesday — coinciding with a previously scheduled Republican presidential candidates debate.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, citing parliamentary and logistical “impediments,” sent a letter back with a rejection, inviting the president to come Thursday instead.

Democrats charged that the speaker was out of line, and that presidents are always given deference in scheduling speeches to Congress. A Boehner spokesman charged that the White House “ignored decades — if not centuries — of the protocol of working out a mutually agreeable date and time before making any public announcement.”

Either way, Obama is confronting the urgent task of reintroducing himself to an increasingly skeptical electorate.

For nine months since tea party Republicans prevailed in the 2010 midterms by railing against the ever-expanding government debt, Obama and his aides have embraced the goal of deficit reduction — a shift that White House strategists believed would put the president in good stead with crucial independent voters.

But since January, Obama’s job approval ratings have sunk to new lows, now hovering around 40 percent in most surveys.

A series of disappointing monthly jobs reports and wild fluctuations in the stock markets have increased public anxiety and raised concerns among economists that the country may be close to another recession.

Analysts expect the August jobs report, due Friday, to show modest growth, but not enough to substantially change the country’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate.

“In the last couple of weeks, the White House has recognized the gravity of the moment for the economy and the public’s judgments of Washington itself, and has shifted quickly from deficits to jobs and growth, which is what the public is most anxious about,” said Neera Tanden, chief operating officer of the liberal Center for American Progress and a former policy adviser to the Obama administration.

Recent surveys have shown the extent of the political problem for Obama, with independent voters who backed the president in 2008 expressing growing disapproval of his handling of the economy. Moreover, vast majorities of Americans see the country heading in the wrong direction, and disagree with Washington’s priorities.

“If he is focused in that majestic House chamber on building a consensus in Washington, or if he speaks in partisan terms, then he’s misstepping,” said Ken Duberstein, who was chief of staff in the Reagan White House. “Because what he needs to focus on is building a consensus in America on behalf of the path that he lays out.”

Obama, in his letter to congressional leaders, cited “unprecedented economic challenges” as he invoked images from his campaign-style swing through the Midwest this summer.

“As I have traveled across our country this summer and spoken with our fellow Americans, I have heard a consistent message: Washington needs to put aside politics and start making decisions based on what is best for our country and not what is best for each of our parties in order to grow the economy and create jobs,” he wrote.

He said he would reveal a “series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the middle class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order.”

Obama took criticism from his own supporters for caving too quickly to Republican demands during the debt debate. Since then, the president has appeared willing to answer calls that he recalibrate his strategy and get bolder with his rivals..”