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January 23, 2010

Obama Prepares for State of Union in Evolving Political Landscape

U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to deliver his State of the Union Address at a time of political turmoil in Washington.  Voter anger is high, and a Republican Senate victory in Massachusetts has sent shock waves through the president's Democratic Party. 

White House officials say they understand why emotions are running high.  The president's top political aide says President Obama has had to take unpopular action to deal with an economic crisis far worse than anyone expected when he took office.

David Axelrod says he warned the president early on that his public approval ratings were likely to drop. "I said to him a year ago, Mr. President your numbers are going to be considerably worse a year from now than they are today because you can not govern in an economy like this without great disaffection," he said.

Axelrod told the ABC television program This Week that he believes the president did the right thing. "I have no regrets about that.  I think history will look back and say the President of the United States met his responsibilities," he said.

But Republicans say the win by Scott Brown in usually reliably Democratic Massachusetts shows the public vehemently disagrees with the president's policies - most notably his drive to get legislation through Congress to overhaul the nation's health care system.

On NBC's Meet the Press, the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said polls show the vote in Massachusetts was largely about health care reform. "The American people had a victory in Massachusetts.  And they were sending us the message - stop and start over," he said.

One of the president's chief advisors, Valerie Jarrett, makes clear Mr. Obama is not about to give up.

She also appeared on Meet the Press, saying, "What the president is always going to do is push hard for the American people.  He is not going to give up on that because of one election in Massachusetts."

But there are already small incremental signs of change at the White House and the Democratic Party headquarters following the Massachusetts election.

The man who led the successful Obama presidential campaign, David Plouffe, will help the party prepare for Congressional elections in November.  And President Obama is making a greater effort to show the American people that his policies can change their lives for the better - particularly when it comes to creating jobs. 

Jarrett indicates that will be a focus of the State of the Union Address, saying "he will be able to set forward his priorities and they will be focusing on the middle class - our middle class is struggling out there, they are frustrated, they are angry."

The president will deliver his State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people on Wednesday.