January 28th, 2010
03:42 PM ET
4 years ago

After pleading his case, where does Obama go now?

Washington (CNN) - President Obama acknowledged Wednesday night that he's faced political setbacks during his first year in office.

Obama's first State of the Union speech was the pivot his critics believe he should have made months ago. Health care is now on the back burner, and the pain of a lingering economic recession is front and center.

"I realize that for every success story, there are other stories of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next paycheck will come from," Obama said. "That is why jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight."

His speech is likely to play well with independent voters, whose support of Obama has waned since helping him get elected, one expert on independent voters said.


"Just the speech's two main themes - focus on the economy and attacks against kind of the bitter partisanship we still see in Washington - those are the two main themes independents wanted to hear," said John Avlon, author of "Independent Nation." "Continuity from the '08 campaign, that's what independents wanted, and I think he connected."

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, most Americans wanted the president to use Wednesday night's speech to move his administration in a new direction.

Seven out of 10 said they would like to see the president put forward proposals that would move his administration in a new direction this year, with 28 percent saying they'd like to hear Obama address the same goals and priorities he had in his first year in office.

The topic that has consumed most of his presidency - health care reform - became just a short plea in a nearly 70-minute State of the Union address.

"Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let's get it done."

With Republicans in lockstep against the reform bill in Congress, the future of the hot-button issue became more muddled with the Republicans' historic Senate win in Massachusetts - which stripped Democrats of their 60-vote Senate supermajority and gave Republicans enough votes to block most legislation in the chamber.

Democrats, who were in the process of combining previously passed House and Senate bills at the time of the Massachusetts special election, have been struggling since to come up with a new strategy.

The president also took his share of the blame for not explaining the issue clearly enough, adopting a self-deprecating tone about his political wounds.

"By now, it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics," Obama said.

Democratic leaders are now looking at ways to move the reform bill forward, despite losing their 60-seat filibuster-proof majority.

The president defended last year's work, especially the stimulus package. But he was also candid and almost wistful about promises unkept.

"I campaigned on the promise of change. Change we can believe in, the slogan went," he said. "And right now I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change, or that I can deliver it. But remember this: I never suggested that change would be easy or that I could do it alone."

Obama also touched on earmark reform, and threatened to use his first veto if spending gets too high. But the president has a spotty record on that controversial issue.

Before a joint session of Congress in 2009, Obama said the recovery act was passed free of earmarks. But shortly after, House Democrats voted on and passed a budget with nearly 9,000 earmarks, worth around $7.7 billion.

The White House said at the time that there was no contradiction.

And now as Obama gets ready to push forth his 2011 budget, he is promising to institute earmark transparency.

Continuing a populist theme, Obama called for requiring all congressional earmarks to be posted on a public Web site before a vote "so that the American people can see how their money is being spent."

After a year of increasing polarization in Washington, Obama challenged Republicans to meet him halfway, suggesting that just saying no to Democrats isn't enough - Republicans should offer alternatives.

Avlon said that is exactly what independents want to see.

"The culture of Washington is addicted to division, and that's the problem. And President Obama is saying, look, I'm a leader - it's a leader's job to change culture. Change doesn't happen overnight."

He added that independents believe that Obama campaigned on a new era of post-partisanship - though Congressional Democrats have taken a partisan push on legislation. Top examples: passing the economic stimulus plan with only two Republicans on board, and passing Obama's budget strictly on party lines.

– CNN Political Producer Ed Hornick contributed to this story.

soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Gorley Amusen

    As we have learned over the past year, his saying something in a speech does not make it so.

    January 28, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Jay1975

    "His speech is likely to play well with independent voters, whose support of Obama has waned since helping him get elected, one expert on independent voters said."
    I am an independent voter and I say too little, too late. Unless the Repubs put up someone worht a spit, I will vote for the third party candidates.

    January 28, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. gt

    i wish he would go back to chicago...

    January 28, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. katiec

    Pleading his case?? There you go again, CNN.
    Am getting so sick of your play on words. There was no pleading,
    just statement of facts, goals and asking the partry of NOthing to start putting our country first.

    January 28, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. MJ

    A "New Bill" – how amazing is this ... Obama believes that by passing a "Bill" jobs will fall out of the sky. He reminds me of a dog paddling in water. Not sure where he is going, but looks to all sides to find the safest exit. Having also received a major kick in the behind from the Great State of Massachusetts – he is definitely looking for that Life Preserver! Just wait, they will shove this so-called Health Reform down are throats at any moment!

    January 28, 2010 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. dthompson

    ..........State of the union speech same ole snake oil..

    January 28, 2010 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. Mississippi Mrs.

    Independents are listening. They know that there are many great Democratic and Republican ideas for REAL health care reform.

    Quit insulting us all by bickering about the bickering.

    Most of us know how divisive President Obama really is.

    He pronounces it divisive (with a short i sound). In the south we
    say div-EYE-sive (with a long i sound).

    He is the fly in the puddin, either way you say it.

    January 28, 2010 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. Sniffit (the real one)

    Back to Chicago for good if America is luckey!

    January 28, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. Rickster

    Horrible speech from a horrible president. I could actually see President Pinoccio's nose growing as he spoke. And please, California, I'm begging you, please vote that lunatic Nancy Pelosi out of office. She is an absolute national embarrassment sitting back there adjusting and readjusting her false teeth through the entire speech and hopping up and down like a 3rd grade schoolgirl.

    January 28, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  10. Phil

    The President brought a strong message to the American people. He also challenged the Republicans to get off their high horse and work to help needy Americans. The election is over, and most Americans want to move on...Why can't the Republican see that?
    I'm not sure I understand; poor republicans are committed to making rich republicans richer. What's going on? Please, someone explain it to me.

    January 28, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. Paul from Phoenix

    How are we supposed to trust anything he said yesterday when the Senate, the VERY NEXT DAY after the president spoke about pay-as-you-go, voted to raise the debt cap by $1.9 trillion dollars?

    January 28, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  12. ThinkAgain

    Folks need to be reminded that cleaning up a mess the size of which the Republicans left President Obama will take come time.

    The Republicans have nothing to offer accept the same-old, same-old tried-and-failed economic, military and foreign policies. To turn to them simply because you're impatient with the speed of the economic recovery is childish and silly.

    People of this country need to grow up a bit and be patient.

    January 28, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Peter Dennis

    Please stop covering the national government as an continuous election. Instead, devote your efforts to reporting the issues and the debate. We have had enough of poll results being the major emphasis of news stories. Perhaps reporters and other talking heads should join Congress in listening to what the President had to say.

    January 28, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. db

    How about back to Chicago?

    January 28, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. Mike in MN

    I believe independents will like much of what Obama said. After all they liked it when he said the same things during the campaign. However the difference between now and then is that independents will not believe what Obama said until they see the results of his promises are a reality. Obama is not likely go gain back the approval or trust of independents until his actions match his words.
    And as for Obama understanding the voice of the people, he appears to have it only partly right. He has heard the tone correctly as being one of anger. But as for the content, he is either too dumb to understand or too arragant to admit that the people have rejected much of his policies including health care, cap and trade and the stimulus. He seems to have heard it on spending, behind closed door deals, and transparency. But his promise to freeze spending on a small portion of the overall budget next year will only reduce an annual deficit of 1.35 trillion by 15 billion. A positive move but far short of being a solution.
    It does not look to me like Obama will in the end deliver on the change independents are looking for.

    January 28, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  16. Black Viper

    Give me one good LOGICAL reason not to vote for Obama again without contradicting yourself jack or reciting the republicans lies or talking points. The problem with this country is when you lie 100 times and fabricate staff based on assumption some fools will believe you and vote against their interests. When emotions (loss of Jobs) are high, thinking is low and logic is dead.
    People are ready to go back to their abusive divorced husbands and wifes because the new husband or wife has not buy a new mercedez to them yet. PATIENCE IS A VERTU AND IS KEY TO SUCCESS.

    January 28, 2010 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. duffey

    President Obama was steing the obvious. Why is that news.

    January 28, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Marty

    You can't have bipartisanship when one of those parties just says no in a unanimous voice. If the Republicans want obama to fail, then shame on them. If he fails, we all lose.

    January 28, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  19. DemocratsAreEvil

    70 minutes of the 2008 campaign promises that went unfullfilled. Taking office with a $400b deficit and running it up to $1.4T within one year, then blaming Bush for it. Making economic promises like domestic oil exploration, tax cuts, nuclear power plants to get the Republicans on-board; but knowing his Democratic majorities will never enact them. Keeping pushing hard left Obama and you will see a super-majority of Republicans in 2010 that will over-ride any veto you try to sign. Republicans and Independants make up 70% of this country and are aligned against you and your (D) minion zombies.
    You are not on the street corners of Chicago agitating anymore. The country doesn't trust or believe anything you say anymore. You've wasted all the good will of the American public. Yea, you still have the 20% that adore you, but liberalism is a failed economic policy as history has shown. You have done more for the Republican party than they could have done themselves. You've now guaranteed that the Democratic party after the 2010 elections will be in the minority for generations. Congratulations, please keep going.

    January 28, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. joe kiloz

    I'm an Independent and yes, I'm going thru buyers' remorse, but for the life of me, I can't find where the private sector jobs in the millions are based on this speech. Other than a construction worker, can you tell me how my old job will come back ? Seriously.

    January 28, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. southerncousin

    Find a corner of the oval office he can lie down in and go to sleep until this nightmare ends in January 2013. Just don't touch anything and don't let Joe Biden run around talking either.

    January 28, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Change the Senate and House Majority leaders. They are too liberal for a country that is overwhelmingly moderate.

    Liberals in power encourages the right-wing to justify putting the GOP interests ahead of the country. The GOP is only partisan when we have a GOP president. Now that a Democrat is in the White House this is Bill Clinton all over again in that the GOP will do everything it can to destroy the Democrat in the White House. The viciousness, ferocity and treasonous antics are not personal its GOP politics.

    The GOP has attached the labels of "nazi" to Obama knowing full well that their gameplan is directly out of the propaganda chapter. The collaboration by FoxNews embodies this strategy as well as the Tea Party Movement which is only attended by angry white people.

    I say replace the liberal Majority leaders because it is the only way to expose that the GOP party places its interest ahead of any regular moderate American.

    January 28, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. Dar

    If Odumbo would have began trying to get our jobs back from the start we and he would be far better off. Instead he opted to run amuck with his health care bill for a full year and stopped listening to America.
    This is all about Odumbo and screw us. He now knows that we mean business and he better stop screwing around and listen to both parties, not just his croneys.

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    January 28, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. Capt. Snarky

    Preferably to the dustbin of history

    January 28, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. Rick McDaniel

    No where. Unless Congress gets off their fannies, and actually passes some legislation, nothing is going to happen on any of the key issues.

    Not much chance of that, in my view.

    January 28, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
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