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Obama agenda: A realistic speech

AP: “President Barack Obama's year of action could amount to a lot of running in place. The constitutional constraints on his authority and lack of cooperation in Congress are a recipe for low-yield initiatives with limited reach. But limited executive actions, such as the ones he announced Tuesday night, might be all government can bear to do in an election year when Congress' balance of power is on the line.”

Susan Page: “The contrast between President Obama's State of the Union Address a year ago and the one he delivered Tuesday night is the difference between soaring ambitions — understandable for someone who had just decisively won a second term in the White House — and downsized dreams. It reflects a political journey from the aspirational to the achievable.”

NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard writes: Stan Greenberg, the longtime Democratic pollster, said Tuesday night that the president performed “impressively” based on the significantly positive response among swing voters to his speech. Greenberg’s organization, Democracy Corps, tracked the instant responses and post-speech reflection of 44 swing voters, including 16 unmarried women—a key voting demographic, in Denver. The biggest home run for the president came during his passage on women and pay equity, initiating “off the charts” marks, especially from the unmarried women. Overall, the president’s personal rating shot up by 28 points because of his “realistic solutions” for the economy—Greenberg noted the voters came in “almost as if they had no sense of the president’s plan to move the economy forward.” 

But, including Democrats, the voters did not respond well to his statements that the deficit went down, the economy has seen great gains, and they dismissed the notion that the U.S. is prepared for a 21st Century economy. A significant portion of the focus group was, though, particularly drawn to his lines on stagnant wages, upward mobility and education, per Greenberg. And though the voters first responded skeptically to the president’s mention of the Affordable Care Act, he saw bumps—including from Republicans--when he relayed the protection guaranteed to those with pre-existing conditions. Greenberg’s tracking showed a 13-point favorability increase of the Affordable Care Act. The president’s pitch for expanding early childhood education gained traction among Democrats.

AP fact checks Obama and Republican respondent Cathy McMorris-Rodgers: “It seems to be something of an occupational hazard for President Barack Obama: When he talks about his health care law, he's bound to hit a fact bump sooner or later. So it went Tuesday night, when he declared Medicare premiums have stayed flat thanks to the law, when they've gone up. As for an even bigger theme of his State of the Union address, the president's assertion that ‘upward mobility has stalled’ in America runs contrary to recent research, while other findings support him.”

On McMorris-Rodgers: “It's true that a large part of the still-high unemployment rate is due to jobless workers who have given up looking for a job. There are roughly three people seeking every job opening, a circumstance that can discourage others from trying. But one big reason people aren't seeking employment is that there are so many boomers — the generation born in the immediate aftermath of World War II — and therefore more than the usual number of retirements.”

FactCheck.org also found some cherry picked facts from Obama, including that nine million number of health-care enrollees. “Medicaid estimates include renewals, along with new enrollees,” they write.

Politico has its own fact check. 

Republicans were making this face about the president’s speech. AP wraps Republican reaction, including their unhappiness that Obama would threaten to go around Congress.

Vice President Biden made the rounds on the morning shows and echoed Obama’s call to go around Congress where they could. "We're just not going to sit around and wait for the Congress if they choose not to act,” Biden said on CBS.

But he also contested that Obama would simply go around Congress on NBC’s Today: “That’s not what he said, he said, ‘I’ll work with the Congress, I want to work with them.’ I think you’ll see much more cooperation with the Congress this year than you have the past five years.”

Perhaps Roll Call summed it up best: “Obama 'Eager' to Work With Congress, but Ready to Act Alone.”

He also said he believed "in my heart," he could be a good president, AP notes. But he says he hasn’t made a decision yet. "I haven't made a decision to run and I haven't made a decision not to run,” he said. “Jill and I will make that decision later down the road."

While President Obama takes his message on the road Wednesday, going to a Costco in Lanham, Md., and a steel plant in Pennsylvania, Republicans are heading for their retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The story of soldier Cory Remsburg lit up Twitter, which USA Today notes had, “seemed more focused on surface than substance.”

Speaking of more surface than substance, Twitter was obsessed with Joe Biden’s facial expressions. 

A George W. Bush speechwriter accused Obama of plagiarizing his former boss on FOX for using the phrase “hope and opportunity.” But Dylan Byers finds, “A quick text compare shows that no lines were directly lifted from Bush's 2007 speech in the one Obama gave on Tuesday. There are some minor similarities between the two: Obama use a version of the word "opportunity" more than ten times in his speech, Bush used the word at least eight times. Both speeches also ended with a moving story about a wounded veteran.”