Previewing President Obama’s State of the Union speech

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President Obama will concentrate his State of the Union speech Tuesday on the economy, shifting the emphasis away from the broad social agenda of his second inaugural address to refocus attention on a set of problems that vexed his first term.

Several senior administration officials involved in the speech say he will use his fourth State of the Union address to talk about jobs after the national unemployment rate ticked up last month. He will propose ways to make college more affordable to more people. And, the officials said, he will argue for the need to spend public money — on research, on roads, on education — to prepare Americans for a world where a warming climate, a nomadic labor force and new technology are shutting doors and opening new ones across the national economy.

A running preview of the SOTU:

7:55 a.m. – Lawmakers wait hours on the aisle for a few seconds of presidential showtime: The payoff … lasts about five seconds. But oh, those are five good seconds. There’s you, on national TV. And the leader of the free world seems to be laughing at your shared, private joke. ‘I said, “Don’t forget us in North Carolina!” . . . And he would say, “How could I?”‘ said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) … ‘And we would erupt in laughter.’ … For the people on the aisle, the State of the Union is a rare night when a low-ranking legislator can score both a TV appearance and a personal audience with the president. ‘”Stand by Israel, now,” or “Stick with Israel, now,”‘ said Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), recounting what he used to say to President George W. Bush. ‘Bush would usually say, “Oh, I believe that.” “Oh, I will.” Via David A. Fahrenthold, with Ed O’Keefe.

7:55 a.m. – GOP launching SOTU website: The House Republican Conference, led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, will unveil on Tuesday, to provide a ‘second-screen experience’ … ‘We’re taking [the] president’s speech text and pairing it with fact check and responses by Republicans,’ said Tim Cameron, who runs social media for the GOP conference. ‘Those can come in the form of your traditional fact check and also embedded tweets, and infographics and so forth. It’s going to be a living and breathing document online for us for the next week or so as we continue to flesh it out and our members continues to respond, whether that’s in the media or whether they develop research material to refute one of Obama’s points.’ … The site will feature tweets from members of Congress, and top communications aides in leadership offices like Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) press secretaries Michael Steel and Brendan Buck, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) press secretaries Erica Elliott and Mike Long. Via Jake Sherman.

7:51 a.m. – Carrie Budoff Brown and Reid J. Epstein ask ‘What’s the hashtag for tonight?’ [I]n 2010, Obama’s theme was ‘We won’t quit, I won’t quit.’ After being gashed in the midterm elections, in 2011, Obama offered a more aspirational ‘We do big things’ and a call to ‘Our generation’s Sputnik moment’ as he urged people to get behind his ‘winning the future’ slogan. And building into his reelection campaign, Obama in 2012 described his vision as ‘An America built to last.’ One possibility for Tuesday night: ‘Now is the time,’ the phrase Obama and Biden have used repeatedly to describe the White House gun control push. 

6:39 a.m. – Obama’s State of the Union speech “will be less a presidential olive branch than a congressional cattle prod,” Politico reports.

6:37 a.m. – A new Quinnipiac poll finds President Obama “should focus on the economy in his State of the Union Address, 35 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Another 20 percent say the federal deficit is the top priority, with 15 percent citing gun policy and 12 percent listing health care.” Meanwhile, two-thirds of people say they’re either “likely” or “very likely” to watch.

6:28 a.m. – NRSC hits ’14 Democrats ahead of State of the Union: Ahead of tonight’s State of the Union, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran is out with a memo highlighting how President Obama’s expected liberal tone tonight will cause headaches back home for vulnerable Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014. “The reality is while President Obama and his team burns the political capital that he believes was earned last November, he is lighting an inferno under the electoral prospects for a number Democratic Senate candidates in 2014. Our team is ready to capitalize,” Moran writes in the memo, which will go out later this morning. “As the President and Democratic leaders in Congress double-down on their demands for higher taxes to finance even more out of control spending Republicans welcome and look forward to that debate in states like Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska, and many others.” (Via Politico’s Morning Score)

6:26 a.m. – Jose Godinez-Semperio, an undocumented immigrant seeking Florida Supreme Court approval to practice law,will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Godinez-Semperio came to the United States at age 9 from Mexico and graduated from the Florida State University law school, but had trouble being admitted to practice law because of his immigration status. Earlier this year, the News Service of Florida reported that Godinez-Semperio has been approved for a work permit under the new federal immigration policy aimed at allowing certain young immigrants to stay in the country. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in October about his attempt to practice law, after the Florida Board of Bar Examiners asked the justices for guidance. (via The News Service of Florida.)

6:01 a.m. – Tea party leaders are turning to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to deliver their message following President Obama’s State of the Union address, CNN reports.

5:41 a.m. – In Address, President Will Lay Out Agenda Focused on the Middle Class,” by Michael D. Shear and Jackie Calmes:

“Obama will vow to use the power of his office to recapture robust job growth and economic expansion, according to White House officials … Obama will insist that only ‘a thriving middle class’ can stimulate long-term growth and that Americans must be given the tools to succeed … His call for new government investments – many of which Republicans successfully blocked in his first term – is an effort to shift the emphasis away from simply reducing the deficit and will serve in part as an answer to Republican criticism that he has not focused enough on jobs. … The president is structuring his fifth annual address to a joint session of Congress around three main economic points: making the nation a ‘magnet for jobs and manufacturing’; providing Americans the ‘skills they need’ for those jobs; and ensuring that ‘hard work leads to a decent living.'” 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.