Obama's SOTU to Focus on Rebuilding Economy

Monday, 27 Jan 2014 11:14 AM

By Lisa Barron

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President Barack Obama will offer his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday with his approval ratings near all-time lows, Congress deadlocked over a host of issues, and his signature domestic policy in jeopardy.

While the president could use the type of game-changing speech that has helped him so often in the past, it's not clear that words alone will help this time, reports Time.

Story continues below video.


"The fact is that the oratory and the communicating skills are just not what they used to be. They peaked maybe during the '08 campaign, and he hasn't been able to match that because it's not new anymore," Kenneth Khachigan, chief speechwriter for Ronald Reagan's second State of the Union address in his second term, told the magazine.

"Usually the problem is the gas tank's running on empty, and Obama has used up most of his big initiatives early on. So the challenge is to have something fresh to say," he said.
Indeed, the speech is expected to focus largely on the themes of rebuilding the economy and income inequality that he has touched on in the past, reports NBC News.

"In many ways, if you want a good preview of what this State of the Union will look like, simply read the one from 2013. Other than the part on guns, you're going to hear a lot of the same things," predicted NBC's chief political editor Chuck Todd.

"It was the first time minimum wage had been brought up in a long time. You're going to hear that again from the president, although he'll go deeper into some of these issues."

That could involve plans to take unilateral presidential action in areas such as infrastructure development, job training, retirement security, climate change and education, reports the Wall Street Journal.

"When American jobs and livelihood depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer reportedly said in an email to supporters Saturday.

The White House is also expected to make unprecedented use of social media. "They have a huge PR push around it, a lot of social media angles to this," said NBC's Todd, pointing to the live watching of the address on the whitehouse.gov website and the Google + Hangout afterwards.

"So clearly they're hoping to get a different PR push than in the past," he added.
What is unclear is how the president will spin the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act in his highest profile speech since it started.

One thing most health care and crisis management experts agree on is that Obama has to face it head on rather than brush over it, reports Politico.

"You can't hide from this. The story will be bigger if you do," Marlin Collingwood, president of CHT Group, a Boston-based crisis communications firm, told the publication.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane predicted that Obama is likely to roll the law into the larger theme of inequality, "that for our democracy to flourish, we need to address the vast and growing inequalities by increasing access to higher education; moving forward on health care for all; investing in the jobs of the future."

But Robert Blendon, an expert on health care public opinion at Harvard University, cautioned that could be risky because "it gets into winners and losers" and underscores the idea that some people will pay higher costs to benefit others.

The GOP will have its say in the traditional official rebuttal, which will be delivered this year by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers of Washington, the highest-ranking female Republican in Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Thursday that McMorris-Rodgers would draw on her “family’s experiences” to “share our vision for a better America built on a thriving middle class, guided by a fierce belief in life and liberty, and grounded in greater trust between citizens and their government," reported CBS News.

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