“President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night will mark a return to a focus on the nation’s still-struggling economy, according to the White House,” the New York Daily News writes. “Some of Obama’s second-term priorities that have dominated recent headlines — like gun control, climate change and immigration reform — will be mentioned in the speech but will take a backseat to the nation’s jobs crisis.”
Ron Fournier: “White House officials tell me they feel stung by coverage of the inaugural address. Reporters highlighted the president’s left-leaning stances on immigration, gun control, climate change and gay and women’s rights. Obama’s aides argue that he devoted more inaugural address language to the economy, jobs and the deficit than all other issues combined. Still, the perception remains that Obama lost focus on the economy -- the top issue in the minds of most voters. So look for an address Tuesday tilted heavily toward policies pledging action on joblessness, growing the economy and expanding the middle class, White House officials said Friday. The other issues will be discussed, aides said, but there will be no mistaking that Obama’s paramount concern is the economy.
Politico’s Thrush: “The anodyne, stage-managed West Wing leaks have the State of the Union speech focusing on ‘jobs creation,’ poll-tested paeans to the ‘middle class’ and a new slate of infrastructure projects that will have a tough time passing Congress. Privately, administration officials see it as an extension of Obama’s unabashedly provocative and progressive Jan. 21 inaugural address, their latest attempt to leverage favorable deals on the sequester and the debt ceiling comparable to the watershed deal Obama secured on increasing taxes on the wealthy.”
Quinnipiac: “President Barack Obama should focus on the economy in his State of the Union Address, 35 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Another 20 percent say the federal deficit is the top priority, with 15 percent citing gun policy and 12 percent listing health care.” Two-thirds of people say they’re either “likely” or “very likely” to watch.
USA Today: “When he delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama not only will be speaking to the 40 million or so TV viewers across the country. His words also will be aimed at a few people sitting right in front of him. A junior Republican who is key to an immigration deal. A senior Democrat who may need coaxing to compromise on gun control. A member of the GOP ticket Obama vanquished in November. And a Supreme Court justice likely to be the swing vote on same-sex marriage. What the president says and how he says it can set the stage for cooperation or confrontation on an issue. He can boost an ally or lay down a marker.”
“The White House and outside supporters of President Barack Obama are launching simultaneous social media, public outreach and fundraising campaigns tied to Tuesday’s State of the Union address,” AP writes. “The efforts will concentrate on key issues Obama will raise in his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress: jobs and the budget, gun control, immigration and climate change. The wide-ranging outreach reflects a decision by the president and his advisers to focus more on using public support to pressure Congress rather than getting bogged down in partisan fights with lawmakers.”
Roll Call: “The passion of gun owners has met the passion of protective moms in the fight over firearms restrictions, which will intensify this week as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address. … Obama will promote his gun safety agenda in his annual address to Congress on Tuesday, the first time in more than a decade that the State of the Union will tackle the emotional topic of guns. His new grass-roots advocacy group, Organizing for Action, is also urging its members to mobilize behind the president’s agenda, which includes a ban on military-style assault weapons and universal background checks for gun purchasers.
Gun safety advocates plan rallies and news conferences Monday in at least a dozen congressional districts. The activists will urge key lawmakers they view as persuadable on the issue to support the president’s gun proposals.”
“Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel could get a vote in committee as early as Tuesday, but Republican aides reacted to that idea by suggesting that some members could walk out in protest,” Politico writes. Levin is said to be “fed up” with Republican demands, but he “faces a conundrum: He has the ability to force a Hagel vote through the committee on a party-line vote, since Democrats outnumber Republicans. But doing so could damage the committee’s longtime bipartisan spirit.”
AP: “This is what ‘Forward’ looks like. Fast forward, even. President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan is springing to life in a surge of executive directives and agency rule-making that touch many of the affairs of government. They are shaping the cost and quality of health plans, the contents of the school cafeteria, the front lines of future combat, the price of coal. They are the leading edge of Obama’s ambition to take on climate change in ways that may be unachievable in legislation. Altogether, it’s a kinetic switch from what could have been the watchword of the Obama administration in the closing, politically hypersensitive months of his first term: pause.”
“Secretary of State John Kerry and his Canadian counterpart refused to offer hints Friday about the biggest economic decision facing their countries: the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline,” Politico notes.
Dick Cheney, by the way, in remarks before the Wyoming Republican Party, called Obama’s national-security picks “second rate.”