News / USA

Obama at Political Turning Point as Major Speech Draws Near

Multimedia

Audio

U.S. President Barack Obama appears to be at a political turning point as he prepares to deliver the annual State of the Union Address on Wednesday before a Joint Session of Congress and a national television audience.  The recent Republican victory in the special Senate election in the heavily Democratic northeastern U.S. state of Massachusetts underscores a shifting political landscape for the president, far different from the high poll numbers and expectations when he came into office one year ago. 

One year after taking office, public opinion polls tell the story of voters having some serious doubts about the 44th president.

Barack Obama's signature health-care-reform plan is stalled in Congress amid declining public support.  The president remains personally popular with voters, but increasingly Americans disapprove of his policies, finding them either too costly or ineffective.

Republicans have found new momentum after last week's stunning upset in the Massachusetts Senate election and are eagerly looking forward to picking up congressional seats in November's midterm elections.

With all of this as backdrop, President Obama returned to campaign mode during a recent visit to Ohio, hoping to strike a more combative tone on behalf of middle class voters.

"I want you to understand, this not about me.  This is not about me," he said. "This is about you!"

Mr. Obama's best opportunity to hit the political reset button will come Wednesday when he delivers the annual State of the Union address before Congress and a national television audience.  It is expected the president will focus on finding ways to help middle-class families in their daily economic struggles.

Many of Mr. Obama's Democratic supporters say the president needs to find a way to pass some sort of health-care plan quickly and then focus on the economy and jobs, which the polls say are the voters' top concerns.

Republicans say the Massachusetts result should also be taken as a sign that voters want the president to reach out to the opposition to find common ground on health care, the economy and other issues.

"The president made a decision to go hard-left," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who spoke on NBC's 'Meet the Press' program.  "That is why he does not have many of my members.  If he chooses to govern in the middle, I think he will have much broader cooperation from Republicans."

To some extent that was the course then-president Bill Clinton chose after the 1994 congressional elections when Republicans won control of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

"I think he is going to continue to have to work, where he can, at trying to reach out, trying to bridge divides, reaching out to independents, finding issues that he can work with Republicans on, especially an issue like reducing the deficit," said Matt Dallek, a political historian with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

Analysts also see the president's current troubles as a test of whether he can recapture the kind of public support he enjoyed during his presidential run in 2008.

"A lot of people including a lot of Democrats think he has gotten too detached and too aloof," said longtime political commentator Tom DeFrank, a guest on VOA's 'Issues in the News' program. "The people need to feel like he is in touch with their pain, with their angst, with what is happening to them in their lives, and he cannot just be a professor."

Experts say it will be important for the president in the State of the Union address to lay out how he will pursue his political agenda in Congress in light of the Republican victory in Massachusetts.  That victory came on the heels of Republican wins in governor's races last November in New Jersey and Virginia, and all three races showed declining support for the president and his priorities among independent voters.

Mr. Obama and his agenda will be central issues in the November congressional elections, says University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato.

"It almost always is about the incumbent president," he said. "We used to have a patchwork of local contests in midterm elections.  The last time that happened was really 1990.  It has not happened since and I do not think it is going to happen in 2010."

A lot of experts see some similarities between Mr. Obama's political challenges and those of former President Ronald Reagan during his first term in office.

Mr. Reagan dealt with a weak economy, high unemployment and poor poll ratings early in his term, says historian Matt Dallek.

"During the recession of 1982, the Republicans lost well over 20 seats in Congress in the midterm elections.  And yet Reagan obviously in 1984 won a landslide re-election victory," he said. "So I think these things can shift very quickly."

Most experts predict Republicans will gain 20 to 30 seats in the House in November, but that estimate could grow until the Democrat's current 40 seat margin is threatened.  It is also expected Republicans will make some gains in the Senate, where Democrats will hold a 59 to 41 seat edge once Republican Scott Brown occupies his seat from Massachusetts.  
 

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid