Call it the “reset” address.
President Barack Obama devoted most of his State of the Union to appealing to the middle – independent voters who delivered his landslide in 2008 and have since shown signs of buyer’s remorse.
He was personal, describing some of the 10 letters from citizens he’s given daily. He was empathetic (“We all hated the bank bailout”). He was changing the subject, devoting the first half hour of the speech to the economy (a jobs plan and a reminder that taxes haven’t increased) before mentioning health care. There was some defiance, insisting (correctly) that health care must be reformed. He was strategic, offering support for offshore drilling and nuclear power, opposed by his base but potentially supported by those independents.
Obama took a few shots at big business, especially banks, and the news media. He also offered a villain, the Senate. Harry Truman had his “do-nothing Congress,” but Obama ticked off several bills (cap-and-trade, jobs, financial reform) that have cleared the House only to get bogged down in the Senate.
Did it work? He’ll get a bump in the polls; presidents always do after the State of the Union speech. But I doubt his appeal for bipartisanship draws much response from Republicans, and he’s got his work cut out for him with his own party (Democrats sat on their hands when Obama talked about his spending freeze plan and deficit reduction). So it’ll be hard to hang on to tonight’s gains with independents.
— Jim Sweeney