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State of the Union

News and analysis on President Obama's 2014 State of the Union address.

  • Obama to focus on inequality and unemployment in State of the Union

    President Barack Obama will confront a politically divided Congress with a demand to expand economic mobility in the U.S., asserting in his State of the Union policy address Tuesday night that he will take action on his own if lawmakers fail to help shrink the income gap between the rich and the poor.

    The speech comes at a time when Obama is struggling to generate second-term momentum ahead of November's election when control of Congress will be at stake.

    Obama's broad themes — described by the White House as opportunity, action, and optimism — may find some support among Republicans, who also have picked up the inequality message in recent months. But with campaigns looming, there's little indication the president will win over Republicans with his policy prescriptions, including a renewed push to increase the minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education.

    With its grand traditions and huge prime-time television audience, the State of the Union offers Obama an opportunity to start fresh after a year where his legislative agenda stalled, his signature health care law floundered and his approval rating tumbled. The president has cast 2014 as a "year of action" but has yet to show the public how he'll ensure that's more than just an empty promise.

    Previewing the president's remarks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "He'll certainly aim high. Presidents ought to aim high."

    Read more at Al Jazeera America


  • The modern State of the Union speech traces its origins to Woodrow Wilson, who revived the annual speech before congress in 1913. George Washington made the first in 1790, but the practice was discontinued by Thomas Jefferson in 1801. He felt it too resonant of a monarch’s behavior. (Library of Congress)


    Photos: At the tightly choreographed affair that the president'€™s annual speech has become. Check out the State of the Union as political theater.


  • Talk of economic inequality to dominate State of the Union address

    President Barack Obama will focus heavily on domestic economic disparity when he delivers his sixth State of the Union address tonight, calling for a modest hike in the federal minimum wage, while also making time to trumpet the virtues of the Affordable Care Act (despite its warts). The president is also expected to call once again for comprehensive immigration reform (though there is debate about just how loud a call it will be) and suggest solutions for the warming planet, but as has been another recurrent theme of the Obama presidency, there is palpable doubt any of the major agenda items will have much life in the historically cantankerous Congress.

    If all of that sounds perilously close to Obama S.O.T.U. speeches in the past, that’s because it is.

    Although a few proposals aimed at aiding and expanding the middle class are likely to be showcased — including an yet-to-be revealed effort to help the long-term unemployed, according to a memo sent to supporters by senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer — the night will be primarily devoted to pomp and politics.

    “It is entertainment, but it is an opportunity to see the president say something to the American people," said Stephen Hess, a former staffer to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations and an adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Unfortunately, added Hess, the American people "don’t usually bother with it.”

    “I would say my hunch is that this will be the least listened to," said Hess. "There hasn’t been the buzz, which comes in part from the president’s people sending out cues about how important it is.”

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Opinion: The real state of foreign policy in the union

    While the rest of the world is now awake to Africa’s economic prowess, the United States has largely been absent from the continent. Today, China is the leading trade partner for many African countries. Its annual $200 billion bilateral trade with Africa far surpasses that of the U.S. Simply, the U.S. is losing Africa to China.

    Catching up with China underpins much of our current Africa policies. However, as we continue to engage with Africa more actively, we must also ensure that our investments are more than symbolic.

    For example, the U.S. has created a $7 billion Power Africa Initiative to invest in the electricity and energy infrastructures in six African countries. While a promising start, in a continent where two-thirds of the population lacks access to electricity, this pales in comparison to the need. At least $300 billion is needed to ensure universal power access across Africa. This initiative’s success will require more resources and partnerships with African private and public sector actors.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Opinion: The real state of civil liberties in the union

    The state of the union — more precisely, the state of its citizenry — is watched. In 2013 a string of disclosures revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) collects and stores digital reams of information about ordinary Americans. The NSA’s activities include the bulk collection of our telephonic metadata and the “incidental” but routine collection of our telephone and email content.

    The scale of collection dwarfs the domestic spying conducted by intelligence agencies during the early decades of the Cold War. The infamous abuses of that era, including the targeting of activists like Martin Luther King Jr. led to laws and policies barring intelligence agencies from collecting Americans’ information without reason to suspect illegal activity. Those rules were gutted after 9/11, paving the way for today’s surveillance.

    The government attempts to reassure us by citing its internal oversight mechanisms and the lack of evidence (thus far) of willful overreach. But any system that relies so heavily on self-policing courts failure. Technologies have changed since FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure, but human nature has not. Ambition, fear, pettiness, prejudice and ideological zeal have led officials to abuse powers far less potent and tempting than those the NSA possesses. The risks are high, and the benefits of a dragnet approach are unproven at best.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America


  • White House photographer Pete Souza has published a collection of Instagram photos following President Obama as he prepares for the State of the Union. The above photo, of a ballpoint pen and a copy of the President's prepared remarks, has been making the rounds on Twitter.

    See the full gallery here.

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    Ahead of the State of the Union, our colleagues at America Tonight posed a simple question to our readers:  If you could ask President Barack Obama to take on one thing – one policy, one issue, one bill, one idea, one principle – what would it be?

    We've received dozens of responses on topics ranging from education to college education government surveillance. Above, you can find a small selection of submissions we've received in the past few days.   

    We still want to hear from you: Starting with the phrase “Dear Mr. President, I want…,” write your wish on a piece of paper or posterboard, take a photo of yourself holding it and either email it to us at DearPOTUS2014@gmail.com or tweet it to @AmericaTonight with the hashtag #DearPOTUS. Some of the most interesting images will be compiled in a blog post and used in our broadcast coverage of the State of the Union address. It can be a paragraph, it can be a word, it can be a Dadaist poem. It just has to be legible.

  • In a move reminiscent of President Obama's campaigns, the White House has launched a full-scale social media push to promote tonight's speech. In addition to releasing Vines and giving prominent staffers the keys to the official Instagram account, @WhiteHouse is tweeting behind-the-scenes pictures of the administration preparing for the big night.


    But the White House's efforts might be vain, according to BuzzFeed. 

    The press corps' demand for tickets to the speech dropped off significantly this year and in 2013, Obama's State of the Union speech had some of the lowest ratings of any State of the Union since 2000, BuzzFeed reports.
  • In the run up to the State of the Union, the White House been releasing lists of names of those who will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech. The guests invited by the White House to join the First Lady during the speech often embody the President's key themes and are seen as examples of policy. 

    In 2013 for instance, guests included Alan Aleman, one of the initial registrants in the administration's Deferred Action program for undocumented young people. That year, immigration played a big role in Obama's State of the Union address.

    This year's guests include Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. Jason Collins, the first male player in major American team sports to come out openly as gay, will also sit with the First Lady. 

    Amanda Shelley, an Arizona woman who has benefited from the Affordable Care Act according to the White House, will sit in the First Lady's box.

    And in a year when inequality is expected to be a major theme of the State of the Union, Illinois resident Misty DeMars — a woman who 'lost her job of eight years due to budget cuts,' according to the White House — will also attend the speech as a guest of Mrs. Obama. 

    Click here for information on all of the guests.
  • Opinion: The real state of the union: Education, immigration and environment

    The White House’s signature education reform legislation, Race to the Top, is often touted as a new civil rights movement. But these reforms, along with those of George W. Bush, have tragically turned public education into a multi-billion dollar “free market” that only hurts the very students and communities the reforms purport to help. Within this new education marketplace, individuals (such as Bill Gates) and corporations (such as Pearson, Inc.) make fortunes, while public school teachers, their unions and teacher educators are pilloried, subjected to a micro-managed audit culture imported from the business sector and stripped of professional authority. Even worse, public students receive a minimalist, technocratic education that prepares them for little more than entry-level jobs at the very corporations that have pushed such reforms in the first place. It is not surprising that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing, Koch brothers-supported organization, has been so supportive of these misguided attempts at education reform.

    Under the guise of supporting the poor and the disenfranchised, these reforms — such as mandating relentless, high-stakes testing; tying school survival, teacher pay and tenure to test scores; lifting the cap on the number of “cram-for-the-test” charter schools allowed per state; and mandating Common Core-aligned exams — have reduced teaching to test prep and marginalized the arts, foreign languages and social studies. By reducing teaching to behavioral techniques, assessment in terms of standardized rubrics and exams, and learning in terms of quantifiable performance outcomes, they have turned teachers into delivery systems that can be automated or outsourced and students into numerical data. These reforms do nothing to end segregated schools or inequality in resources. They do, however, profit those who sell computers, data systems, packaged curricula, tests and test prep.

    It is time we, as a nation, reclaimed the public good of education from the educational wasteland of the marketplace. It is time we took education out of the hands of hucksters, CEOs and the Business Roundtable and put it back in the hands of educators.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America.

  • President Obama sits inside the Oval Office Monday as he prepares for Tuesday night's State of the Union address (Larry Downing/Reuters) 


  • Very excited about our upcoming FIVE HOURS of SOTU coverage on AJAM with Seigenthaler, Chen, Suarez, and yours truly on our Newseum set.
  • What kind of political climate is POTUS facing in the Capitol? How bad is the gridlock? What is causing it? What are the solutions?
  • Can't take photos in the chamber. Ticket to get into #SOTU is pretty near though http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfGVNtuIIAAy4Qv.jpg

  • While BuzzFeed has proposed few might even be paying attention to tonight's State of the Union, Business Insider is suggesting it will be a 'pivotal moment in the Obama presidency.'

    From Business Insider: 

    President Barack Obama's fifth official State of the Union address comes at a pivotal moment in his presidency. 

    His approval ratings are at their lowest points entering a new year in his tenure. In recent U.S. history, only Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, was on shakier footing entering his sixth year in office. The two words that every president fears — "lame duck" — have been thrown around with increasing frequency lately. 

    On top of it all, he's entering an election year that could make his most of the items on a still-ambitious agenda next to impossible.

    That's why many Democrats are cheering Obama's expected theme in Tuesday night's speech — addressing the so-called "opportunity gap."

    "We're excited about tonight's speech," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a small group of reporters on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday. "We think it's going to be a call to action for a 'Year of Action' that will invigorate the debate here and, I hope, to the American people."


    Read more at Business Insider

    What do you think of the State of the Union? What do you want to hear from President Obama? Let us know!
  • The White House has released an excerpt of President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address: 

    Excerpts of the President’s State of the Union Address


    As Prepared for Delivery


    “In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together.  Let’s make this a year of action.  That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.


    Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows.  Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.


    Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.


     


    Our job is to reverse these tides.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” 


    “Opportunity is who we are.  And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.


    As expected, the speech hits hard at the issue of inequality. He also takes a jab at Congress, saying that while he is 'eager' to work with legislators, 'America does not stand still — and neither will I.'

    Obama's attitude isn't exactly surprising. The Washington Times reported Monday the president was planning to use the State of the Union to showcase his dedication to sidestepping Congress more often.
  • Family of North Korea Detainee Kenneth Bae at State of the Union

     The family of North Korean detainee Kenneth Bae will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. Myunghee Bae, Kenneth’s mother, and Terri Chung, Kenneth’s sister, will be in the audience. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) offered the seats to Myunghee and Terri. The family wishes to thank the Congressmen for their generosity and their willingness to help raise awareness for Kenneth.

    For the last several days, Terri and Myunghee, as well as Kenneth’s son Jonathan Bae, have met with a variety of public figures in New York and Washington DC. People from across America are uniting with the goal of seeing Kenneth released from detention in North Korea.

     Today, Terri, Myunghee, and Jonathan met with Secretary of State John Kerry. Below is a statement from Terri Chung:

    We were honored to have the opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry. Secretary Kerry was warm and sympathetic, and I want to thank him for affirming the commitment of the US State Department to securing Kenneth’s release. We are grateful for his support, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of many at the State Department who have been working behind the scenes for the past 15 months to bring Kenneth home.

    The past week our family has received overwhelming support from people across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family. I see the heart, soul and hard work of so many people. We will never be able to thank you enough for your kindness.

    I also hope and pray that the attention and care that people are showing does not end with the publicity of today. The fact is, my brother remains in detention in DPRK (North Korea) after 15 months, the longest detention of any American in recent times. We will not rest until Kenneth is home in the United States. We continue to implore our government to do everything possible to secure Kenneth's freedom.

  • Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving (center) is the man who announces 'Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States'

  • Has the din of social media drowned out the State of the Union?

    For years, the State of the Union address was widely seen as an opportunity for the sitting president to forcefully push his policy agenda from a literal 'bully pulpit' in the Capitol Building. With the rise of social media, writes New York Times reporter Ashley Parker, this is not longer the case.

    "Twitter has fast become the conventional wisdom clearinghouse and real-time echo chamber for major political events — not to mention the forum where opinion on President Obama’s State of the Union address is likely to crystallize Tuesday evening before he has even finished speaking," writes Parker.

    Instead of having a direct channel to the ears and eyes of American citizens through radio and television, the White House must now compete with a din of counter-messaging and spin proliferated by savvy political operatives through Twitter and Facebook. "The State of the Union address has spawned a bipartisan embrace of new photo- and video-sharing platforms, and a rush to create tweetable graphics and synchronized hashtags to amplify messages," writes Parker. "Democrats and Republicans will be competing to make their views majority realities, perhaps with little regard to what the president actually says."

    The State of the Union address as a "television-based living-room moment" has given way to "a rapid-fire, word-by-word dissection" of the president's remarks. "The barriers to entry for punditry have been drastically lowered with the scramble to win the so-called second screen of social media," writes Parker.

    Read more at the New York Times
  • Proud to provide my guest ticket to tonight’s SOTU to Korie Robertson. #DuckDynasty @bosshogswife http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfGk3APIEAA3Vhh.jpg

  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers during her rehearsal for the GOP response to the SOTU speech. #STOU http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfGpub_CAAAocEI.jpg

  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union. Below are excerpts from her speech:

    Tonight, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will deliver the Republican Address to the Nation following the State of the Union.  Following are excerpts from the address:

    “The most important moments right now aren’t happening here.  They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber.  They’re in your homes.  Kissing your kids goodnight. Figuring out how to pay the bills. Getting ready for tomorrow’s doctor’s visit. Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview. After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big.” 

    .
    ..


    “So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision – one that empowers you, not the government. It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.

    .
    ..

    “Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become. That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.

    .
    ..

    “Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one.  Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder. Republicans have plans to close the gap…Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape…Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time.  We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…to help you take home more of your paycheck...with lower taxes, cheaper energy costs, and affordable health care.” 

    .
    ..

    “We’ve all talked to too many people who have received cancellation notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the President’s health care law is not working.  Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s. And that whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.

    .
    ..

    “As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started.  That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional…Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one.

    NOTE: Watch an enhanced webcast of the Republican Address to the Nation on SOTU.gop.gov.


  • Obama: ‘Reverse these tides’ of inequality, stalled mobility

    President Barack Obama will vow to confront income inequality and stalled upward mobility in the U.S. during his State of the Union address, warning that he is prepared to bypass Congress to “reverse these tides.”

    Expanding on the themes that have become an increasing focus of his tenure — and an issue that may form a large part of his legacy — Obama will use the address to make an unambiguous call to help those still struggling after 2008'’s Great Recession.

    “The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all,” he will say.

    In contrast, “those at the top have never done better,” he will say, pointing at four years of economic growth, corporate profits and rising stock prices.

    In remarks released to the media ahead of the speech, the president called for 2014 to be “a year of action” and stated that “wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

    “America does not stand still — and neither will I,” he is slated to say.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Get fired up: The President working on this year's #SOTU address. http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfGzKR6CAAAWqeJ.jpg

  • Opinion: President Obama should set agenda for 2014 midterms

    Pundits will parse and dissect every part of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Almost none of it will really matter in Washington. There is probably nothing he could say to spur Congress to support his agenda in 2014. But he may be able to shape what will determine whether he achieves much in the last two years of his presidency: the fight for control of Congress.

    Cable news pundits endlessly discuss whether Obama can save his presidency. His presidency does not need saving, but it does need a boost. According to Gallup, Obama’s approval ratings are about where George W. Bush’s were at the same point in his presidency. That November in 2006, Democrats won big, regaining control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years.

    The big difference between 2014 and the recent partisan landslides in 2006 and 2010 is the standing of the opposition party. In those elections, the parties’ approval ratings were roughly even, but they are not this time. Since before last fall’s government shutdown, the GOP has been tracking about 10 points below the Democrats’ approval rating. Voters are not too happy with Obama and less so with Democrats in general, but they dislike Republicans even more.

    State of the Union speeches have not resulted in lasting gains in presidential approval. Presidents also have had middling success accomplishing the goals they set out in their addresses (usually a quarter to half of them). Even then, the goals they tend to choose are already popular. Assuming he sticks with the pattern, there is little reason to think a torrent of legislation will flow from his words on Capitol Hill. And continuing a trend that began with Ronald Reagan, the percentage of Americans watching him lay out his goals will probably shrink from previous years.

    Presidential speeches have little influence on Congress and seldom convince voters to change strongly held beliefs. They do, however, help shape the public’s perception of which issues are important. And this is where Obama may be able to help create a environment favorable for Democratic candidates and their political issues come November.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • It's been a tough year for the Obama administration and it shows in his State of the Union Address, according to Reuters. 

    From Reuters:

    President Barack Obama will lay out his strategy for getting around a divided Congress starting with a wage hike for federal contract workers in a State of the Union speech on Tuesday that reflects scaled-back legislative ambitions after a tough year.

    Obama will say in his 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT Wednesday) address that he will bypass fractious U.S. lawmakers and go it alone in some areas with a series of executive actions aimed at boosting the middle class, many that do not require congressional approval.

    Trying to breathe new life into his presidency and boost congressional Democrats facing re-election battles in November, Obama will tell Congress he is eager to work with lawmakers, "but America does not stand still - and neither will I."

    "So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do," Obama will say, according to speech excerpts released by the White House.

    The White House said Obama would announce that he is issuing an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers with new contracts.

    In his address, Obama will also call on Congress to pass a bill to increase the federal minimum wage for all workers to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 and index that to inflation.

    The executive order raising the level for federal contract workers, which applies to new contracts or existing contracts in which terms are being changed, will take effect at the beginning of next year, with janitors and construction workers among the beneficiaries.


  • While most of America's leaders will be gathered in one room tonight, one top politician has to stay behind and prepare to lead the country in case the unthinkable happens. And that man is Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, according to TIME.

    From TIME:

    If the unthinkable happens during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will assume the role of President of the United States.

    Moniz, the 12th person in the line of succession for the Oval Office, will be protected by Secret Service agents at an undisclosed location as the so-called “designated survivor” while President Barack Obama delivers his address to Congress. Meanwhile, the vice president, members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and others will gather at the Capitol to listen to the president’s annual address.

    The nuclear physicist was a longtime faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before he was sworn in on May 21, 2013. Moniz is no stranger to the federal government or the White House, having served as under secretary of the Department of Energy and White House staffer during the Clinton administration. He’s better liked inside the administration than his predecessor—and last year’s designated survivor—Steven Chu, who was considered by some administration officials to be a political loose cannon.

    Moniz is probably best known for his hair styling, which has led to comparisons with Oscar Wilde and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.


    Read more at TIME
  • Cannot recall a #SOTU where the atmosphere on Capitol Hill was so flat. No great sense of anticipation http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfHCJkMCYAAuq6v.jpg

  • A lil more crowded behind the scenes of Statuary Hall. The State of the Union in less than an hour. #nprSOTU http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfG_Hv7CAAAEIPP.jpg

  • The Pew Research Center takes a look at how Americans feel about the topics President Obama is likely to discuss in this evening's address: 

    1. Economy: Americans still have mostly bleak views of the national economy, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. 45% rated economic conditions “only fair” and 39% “poor,” compared with 16% who termed them excellent or good. For more information, see our key data points.

    2. Health care reform: More than half (54%) of Americans disapprove of Obama’s signature health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, according to a Pew Research survey from December; 41% said they approved of the law. Nearly half (48%) said the law would make the nation’s health care situation worse in the long run, 35% said it would make it better, and 12% said it wouldn’t make much difference either way.

    3. Income inequality: 65% of Americans say the gap between the rich and everyone else has widened in the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey; a similar percentage (67%) recently told Gallup they were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. In the Pew Research survey, nearly seven-in-ten Americans said the government should do “a lot” (43%) or “some” (26%) to reduce the gap. For more on inequality (especially the impact on the middle class), see these key data points.


    Read more at the Pew Research Center 
  • The Senate has officially reconvened and will proceed to the House Chamber as a body. According to the Twitter account that provides floor updates from Senate Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid took care of some business before the Senate headed to the State of the Union.
  • What's the real state of the union?

    In preparation for President Obama's State of the Union address, we asked 30 academics, analysts, and journalists to offer their own brief thoughts on the many subjects that touch on our country’s predicament. 
    • For perspectives on the economy, click here
    • For perspectives on civil liberties, click here.
    • For perspectives on foreign policy, click here.
    • For perspectives on education, immigration and the environment, click here.
    We'll be featuring more analysis in this live blog throughout the evening. 
  • Democrats are facing a tough battle come midterm elections. And while President Obama can only do so much, his State of the Union address can help set the tone for the upcoming races, The Associated Press reports. 

    From the AP:

    President Barack Obama can only do so much to help his party in this year's midterm elections. Six years in office have taken a toll on his popularity, and aside from raising money, his value on the campaign trail is limited — especially in the states that worry Democrats the most.

    But the president can set the tone. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama will frame an economic argument his party hopes will help carry them to victory in November. Although not explicitly political, the speech gives Obama an opportunity to issue a rallying cry for economic fairness and expanded opportunity — issues Democrats believe will resonate in races across the country.

    "It will be interpreted as the Democratic agenda," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. "He can frame up the 2014 choice."

    That choice, as Obama portrays it, is between an America where all segments of the population have opportunities to improve their lot and one where prosperity is disproportionately enjoyed by a select few. In the run-up to the State of the Union, Obama has persistently sought to focus the nation's attention on trends of inequality and lower social mobility that he's pledging to address in his final years in office.

    To be sure, not every Democrat will echo Obama's themes in their own campaigns. Many may focus on niche, regional issues or their personal characteristics. But with the economy still a top issue for most voters, Democrats see issues of economic fairness and expanding access to the middle class as their best chance to reach a broad swath of the population that feels left behind by the sluggish economic recovery.

    “Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become..Click here for information on all of the guests.

  • The Obamas have entered the beast
  • #Obama has arrived at the Capitol
  • The State of the Union rarely goes smoothly -- who can forget Rep. Joe Wilson's 'You Lie!' moment from September 2009? 

    Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) may pick up a few voters in Texas's 14th congressional district, but he'll likely catch some flack on Wednesday morning for this tweet: 




  • Name that Supreme Court Justice, dressed warm. Walking toward #SOTU address through Capitol. http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BfHIjiiIIAA6OF1.jpg

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