State of the Union: Obama to accentuate the positive

John Dimsdale Jan 23, 2012

State of the Union: Obama to accentuate the positive

John Dimsdale Jan 23, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Forget the senators and the representatives and everybody else who’s going to be in the Capitol tomorrow night as President Obama gives his State of the Union speech.

You’ve got primetime, in an election year, national television coverage. It’s got politics written all over it. And the politics this year is all economic.

Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale has our preview.

John Dimsdale: The president’s aides say populism and equity will be major themes in the speech. We’ll hear a pitch for more education and job opportunities for the middle class, paid for by those who already have a generous slice of the American pie. Despite four years of economic backsliding, the president is being advised to accentuate recent positive economic news.

William Galston at the Brookings Institution, has been looking at speeches by other sitting presidents running for re-election.

William Galston: If you look at the way Ronald Reagan, for example, began his 1984 State of the Union address.

Ronald Reagan (in 1984): And I’m pleased to report that America is much improved and there’s good reason to believe that improvement will continue for the days to come.

Galston: And so in one simple sentence, he reminded Congress that the country had been through a very difficult period. But the past year had been one of great progress and there was reason to believe that would continue.

Galston suggests Obama should point to improving job conditions and offer the prospect of more, with infrastructure-building projects and cheaper job training and college education. But Republicans have the congressional clout to block the president’s initiatives.

Former Republican congressman Vin Weber says this year Obama will have to meet them part way. His suggestion: energy.

Vin Weber: There’s a huge opportunity for us now in terms of conventional fossil fuels. Offshore drilling, fracking and natural gas, that have the potential to change the equation favorably in the energy marketplace for the country. If the president took couple steps on any aspect of that toward the Republicans, I think that would be pretty well received.

Finally, White House aides say the most ambitious initiative in the State of the Union aims to trim the number of home foreclosures. Obama hopes to announce a settlement with mortgage lenders that will toss a life preserver to underwater homeowners.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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