News / USA

Obama Expected to Use State of Union to Boost Political Fortunes

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration at the White House in Washington, Jan. 22, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration at the White House in Washington, Jan. 22, 2014.
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday before a joint session of Congress with millions of Americans watching on television. This year’s speech offers the president an opportunity to boost his sagging political fortunes.

The year 2013 took a political toll on Obama. The difficult rollout of his signature achievement, the health care reform law, was a major factor in sending his public approval to new lows.

Recent public opinion polls show the president’s job approval rating hovering around 40 percent, a weak number for an incumbent president.

The latest national poll from Quinnipiac University found 40 percent of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing, compared to 54 percent who disapprove.

Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy says the president gets negative ratings on several key issues.

“The president remains in negative territory now on the economy, the federal budget as well as foreign policy," Malloy said. "Registered voters in big numbers still give the president a ‘thumbs down’ on health care.”

Obama is expected to focus on economic issues in his State of the Union address. Amid signs the U.S. economy is starting to pick up, the president will likely emphasize the need to make economic opportunity available to all Americans.

The administration intends to focus on the issue of income inequality in the United States leading up to the November congressional midterm elections.

A recent congressional study found the wealthiest 1 percent of the population increased its income by 275 percent over the last 30 years. At the time, income levels for the 60 percent of Americans in the middle class rose by just under 40 percent.

The Brookings Institution's Thomas Mann says Democrats hope focusing on the economy in general, and economic fairness in particular, will help their candidates in November.

“How is the economy doing? And that is both jobs and growth and wages," Mann said. "But behind that is the economic inequality and the ‘two America’s’ issue.”

Opposition Republicans say the economy and creating jobs are priorities for them as well in 2014.  But they are also determined to keep the spotlight on problems associated with the health care law, even though they acknowledge some earlier problems are being corrected.

Democrats hope that the fixes to the law are firmly established before the midterm elections.  But analyst Stuart Rothenberg expects many Republican candidates to continue to focus attacks on the Affordable Care Act as a key part of their election strategy.

“I am skeptical it will be an asset by the time the midterms roll around," Rothenberg said. "It might be an asset in five years or 10 years, but not between now and the midterms.”

The State of the Union offers the president his best chance to lay out an election year political agenda that includes domestic and foreign policy goals.

Analysts say foreign policy challenges for the president could also have an impact on this year’s elections, including efforts to rein in Iran’s nuclear program as well as the continuing terrorist threat posed by al Qaida and other groups around the world.

Historically, the president’s party loses seats in midterm elections during a second presidential term. Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman told VOA's Encounter program that the voting coalition of young, minority and women voters that twice helped to elect Obama is less likely to turn out in congressional election years.

“And if their proportions go way down, then the electorate could be two to three points more Republican than it was two years ago without any opinion having actually changed, and that is a real harmful prospect for Democrats across the board,” Wasserman said.

Most analysts favor Republicans to maintain or even increase their margin of control in the House of Representatives.

The real battle will be for control of the Senate. Democrats hold a majority in the Senate, but many of the 35 Senate races this year take place in states where Republicans have an advantage.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: JKF from: Great North (Canada)
January 22, 2014 10:16 PM
The issue of the implementation of the affordable care act, over time will demonstrate great improvements, and it will serve the people of the USA, as many other social betterment acts have, well. The principle of every human being having access to preventive and corrective healthcare, needs to be enshrined as a basic human right; it was a principled vision by the President, and as any other visionary move, throughout history, there will be those that do not back it, but the majority will look back and see it was the right vision. Countries far less well off than the USA, have provided such a backbone program for their people. More needs to be done to address healthcare inefficiencies, waste, and even some malversation of such programs throughout the industriallized world, but not in one country, that has universal healthcare, is the population willing to give it up. The affordable care act, will become a success for all, it just needs to mature, I hope it does so rapidly.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs