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State of the Union Preview

Together, We Make Change Happen

When President Obama took office seven years ago, we were involved in two wars, losing over 800,000 jobs a month, and weathering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. But, with his leadership and the determination of the American people, we have made extraordinary progress on the path to a stronger country and a brighter future.

We've proven that, together, we can overcome great challenges. In his last State of the Union, President Obama will lay out the ways that we, as the American people, can once again come together in pursuit of a country worthy of generations to come.


What topics will he cover in this year’s speech? In a preview to the address, Obama promised to frame his speech around “the big things” in “the years to come.” The speech promises to be less policy-heavy and more big-picture, outlining what Obama sees as his lasting achievements. With more attention to his record, the White House sees the address as a chance to tout arguments Obama has already made, especially those related to the environment and trade. The president can also use the newly released job report as evidence of the economic recovery he’s shepherded. After a rare live televised town hall event on guns last Thursday, he can continue his use of the bully pulpit to push for a broad movement against gun violence. Obama is known as a rigorous editor of his own address.

What issues are on the minds of voters? While terrorism risks have dominated the national conversation after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, immigration and general dissatisfaction with the government have proven themselves higher-polling issues. Yet a fear of terrorism is still prevalent and manifold: almost half the country worries a family member will be a victim of an attack. Americans are also increasingly in favor of executive action on guns, as a recent CNN poll has demonstrated. And as usual, the economy reigns: economists believe America is close to full employment, but resentment over wages and income inequality has still dominated this election cycle.


Gun control

...Obama will make a pitch for the executive actions he is taking to expand background checks in gun purchases.

Those moves have come alongside a warning aimed mostly at Democrats that Obama will oppose any candidate who doesn't support gun control measures...

It's one of the most divisive issues of the speech, with Democrats and Republicans far apart on how to tackle guns. Democrats have advocated for more funding for mental health and law enforcement agencies tasked with conducting background checks, while the GOP has said those moves infringe on Second Amendment gun rights.


Aides say Mr. Obama wants to present an upbeat, optimistic view of America after seven years that will contrast with the gloomy portrayals offered by Republican candidates, a task aided by strong job creation numbers but complicated by continuing turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere.

At the same time, while Mr. Obama will introduce a few policy proposals, more broadly he hopes to generate support for his approach to issues like climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality that can boost Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, even if it does not result in further action during his tenure...

But it is a public that does not share his sunny assessment of the state of the union. In a survey conducted by The New York Times and CBS News in December, 68 percent of Americans said the country was on the wrong track, the highest such figure in more than two years. Many in the poll were unimpressed with the president’s performance on critical issues like the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

That sour public mood has challenged Mr. Obama throughout his presidency. Since he took office, the proportion of Americans who consider the country heading in the right direction in Times-CBS polls has never outnumbered those who think it is on the wrong track. That was true for most of his predecessor’s tenure, too.

Republican presidential candidates have tapped that sentiment. “The state of our union is a mess,” Donald J. Trump said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC News. “We can’t beat ISIS. Our military is falling back. It’s not being properly taken care of. Our vets aren’t being properly taken care of. Obamacare, as you know, is going to fail very soon and probably in ’17, our health care — we don’t have borders. We don’t have anything.”

...That sort of talk has gotten under Mr. Obama’s skin and he wants to use the nation’s biggest platform to push back. As a preview, he sent his White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, to most of the Sunday talk shows to counter the Republicans, citing the 292,000 new jobs created in December and the 2.65 million in all of 2015.

DMU Timestamp: January 12, 2016 03:26

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