President Barack Obama will give his 2014 State of the Union speech Tuesday and predictions and expectations for the speech vary. Some political observers, such as Professor John Sides from George Washington University, say the speech will do little to change public opinion or improve Obama’s popularity. Others like Michael Waldman, who worked as a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, think that Obama can use the stage to speak directly to the American people and build support for his proposals. There is also a great range of opinion regarding the topics Obama is likely to address in the speech.
One topic that is almost sure to command attention from Obama is the state of the economy and issues of so-called “income inequality.” Democratic Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer has predicted that the party with the best message in terms of addressing the economy and job related issues will enjoy the most success in the upcoming 2014 elections. Other Democrats have questioned Obama’s “academic sounding” speeches on the topic and hope that the State of the Union will be the beginning of a more simplistic and direct approach, one more likely to win over voters.
Obama will likely have to use an approach other than repeating the refrain of the rich “paying their fair share.” While this concept is in keeping with the populist message Democrats want to portray, Schumer argues that it is no longer enough to point out how well the wealthy are doing. People want to know what is going to be done to help them, and so rather than focusing on the source of the tax dollars, more attention should be paid to what is done with those dollars to help those who are still struggling in this economy.
Republican critics suggest that the time has finally come for Obama to take responsibility himself for the economic problems in the country. They claim that Obama has spent most of his six years in office blaming the sluggish economy on his predecessor, George W. Bush, and that argument no longer satisfies the American people. Regardless of the specific approach Obama takes, the economy will command attention in his speech. These are just some of the predictions and expectations surrounding President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union speech.
Just as the economy is almost sure to be a key topic in Obama’s speech, the issue of gun control is equally likely to not be present. Despite being in the news due to recent gun related incidents, Obama already dedicated a significant amount of time and political capital to gun control in last year’s State of the Union speech.
He invited former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords to attend the speech last year and told Congress, “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” in an effort to pass stricter gun control legislation. Ms. Giffords was the victim of a shooting as she attended a public gathering in 2011. The legislation ultimately failed in a significant setback for Obama. This makes it unlikely that he will dedicate effort to the issue again in this year’s speech.
A final issue Obama may choose to address is that of immigration reform. As with gun control, Obama has already invested time and effort on this issue in the past. The difference between immigration and gun control is that there is more potential political benefit in pursuing immigration reform. In addition, Speaker of the House John Boehner has given indications that House Republicans will be putting forth their own proposals on the topic. This would make it more imperative that Obama continue to draw attention to his own immigration reform agenda.
There is always the possibility for some “surprises” in terms of the content of the speech. Obama may choose to directly address concerns about government surveillance programs and the revelations of Edward Snowden. He may attempt to emphasize the successful aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) in an effort to deflect criticism against it. Predictions and expectations surrounding President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union speech are many.
Editorial by Christopher V. Spencer