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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid