With sickly approval ratings and a stagnant Congress, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address will likely be more of an opportunity to press the reset button than a feel-good TV presentation for his party.
State of the Union speeches typically include a laundry list of policy goals and requests for congressional action. But with Congress mostly spinning its wheels – with the notable exception of some possible traction on immigration reform – Obama’s remarks are likely to prompt substantial discussion of what he can – and can’t – do to bypass Capitol Hill entirely.
And, as the term “lame duck” increasingly creeps into the vocabulary used to describe the president’s future, Obama’s efforts to carve out his own legacy will be in the spotlight.
Here are six things to watch for during the president’s speech:
The Income Inequality Push – Economic fairness has always been a theme for the president, but it’s a defining one for Democrats now eyeing the midterm elections. And the party thinks it’s a winning issue: A new USA TODAY/ Pew Research Center poll shows that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats believe income inequality has been growing over the past decade. The same survey showed overwhelming support for extending the stalled jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and for raising the minimum wage. Republicans also have their eyes on those numbers, with high-profile and possible 2016 GOPers like Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio already pre-butting the president’s argument, arguing that the ‘War on Poverty” has fundamentally failed. (That same famed “War on Poverty” was itself launched in a State of the Union speech – by President Lyndon Johnson – 50 years ago.)
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