News / USA

    Obama Looks for Political Rebound in State of the Union

    FILE - President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hil, Feb. 12, 2013.
    FILE - President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hil, Feb. 12, 2013.
    President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday before a joint session of Congress and tens of millions of people watching on television.  This year’s speech offers the president an opportunity to begin to turn around his sagging political fortunes.
     
    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 the president 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," he said. "Registered voters in big numbers still give the president a ‘thumbs down’ on health care.”
     
    It is expected that Obama will 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 Budget Office study found that the wealthiest one 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.
     
    Brookings Institution expert Thomas Mann says Democrats hope that a focus on the economy in general and economic fairness in particular will help their candidates in November and respond to the number one priority on the minds of voters. 

    “How is the economy doing?  And that is both jobs and growth and wages," he said.  "But behind that is the economic inequality and the ‘Two America’s’ issue.”
     
    Opposition Republicans say the economy and creating jobs are also priorities for them 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," he 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 president 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 opinions 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.  Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to secure a majority.

    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Doug from: Canada
    January 22, 2014 8:17 PM
    I wonder why they even bother having these big TV production
    STOU addresses for they are nothing but all show for almost nothing the President proposes is ever inacted into law. Prior to Woodrow Wilson,presidents just sent a written STOU message to congress and that was all.A simple and easy thing to do instead of the TV circus we witness every year

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora