Grading the State of the Union


Style: Achieved a good balance between lofty and accessible but probably could have let a little more of his winning personality show through. Optimistic and hopeful about getting things done, although his pleas for cooperation sometimes clashed with his defiant pledges to act without Congress. Firm and confident but without the touch of condescension he occasionally adopts.

Substance: Despite what his detractors say, fully in command of policy across the board. Still, his arguments were presented a little defensively when justifying past policies and his pitches for new policies were uneven in their level of detail.

His worst moment: Thwarted by cutaways of Republican leaders McConnell and Cantor, who were not giving an inch.

His best moment: Closed strong with a return to his opening theme that the country should come together in the spirit of the U.S. military.

The main thing: The speech was clearly poll tested to within an inch of its life, filled with programs and themes of broad appeal running from the left to the center right. Rhetorically reached out to the opposition by invoking national security, the need to get Washington working and a few familiar areas of common ground (entitlement and education reform). But much of the speech focused on policies that divide the parties absolutely. And, judging by the press releases and tweets from the Republican leadership, this State of the Union address will serve to lay down markers for November’s election rather than break the current gridlock. New taxes and a bigger role for Washington are where the presidential election will be fought out – not foundations for compromise this year.

Grade: B

Related Topics: Mark Halperin, 2012 Elections, Analysis, News, Special Report, The Page, White House

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