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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More