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. texas conservative

    GO...out the door....

    January 28, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. FactCheck

    Loved how the Republican rebuttal called for "smaller government" but also wanted the government to create new jobs.

    January 28, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Johnny DC

    Just another speech from a guy who has been proven to only speak well.

    January 28, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Vic of New York

    I hope he continues to put the naysayer Repugnicans on the spot!

    Good call Mr. President. Now you have to follow up by pushing that shoe deep into the collective Republican "kisser"!

    January 28, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Steve (the real one)

    Other than replacing healthcare (last year) with jobs (this year) as the #1 priority (we will see), same speech! Interesting to see the dems bounce up and down out of their seats when the President proclaimed his desires. They wre e and are the reason he got nothing doone! Obama's problem WAS NOT the GOP. He had 60 fillibuster-proof votes! His problem was his own party! They marginalized the moderate Blue Dogs and got NOTHING done! Now they are forced to engage the GOP!

    January 28, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Bedtime for Obonzo

    "A new jobs bill...." Translated, that means another round of Porkulus Spending, paid for by all of the TARP money that has been repaid and, as the law currently stands, is supposed to go back to the Treasury.

    January 28, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. Babs

    My support is still with the President. How can anyone fight for justice, fight for reform, fight for the people of this country when you have this two party joke of a system that is ruining this country? This President IS TRYING VERY HARD TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE....but there is a party of difference that does absolutely nothing to better this country. Their ONLY purpose is to make Obama look as bad as they possibly can and offer absolutely nothing themselves to serve the people of this country. It is just sickening to watch. I am so fed up with having to live under this so called government. It's an absolute joke. I feel like I'm living in the twilight zone. I'd like nothing more than to have the opportunity to kick each and every one of the butts of these negative, racially biased, egotistical idiots.It would make my day.

    January 28, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. E.P.Sewell

    The world is waiting for the sunrise. Some are still sleeping, some have on sunshades, some have on bi-focals, and some will not wake up at all. Some look at the world throough rose colored glasses. Others just totally missed it. Which are you?

    January 28, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. dude palin

    He sits down with the Dems and gets their support or tell them to kiss off !! Grow a set Dems and do what we elected you to do.

    January 28, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  10. Pilgrim

    I think where Obama can go from here is directly related to those two stats above. 7 in 10 want a new direction. 28% want the same direction as before. That doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out. 70 percent of the people he's supposed to represent do NOT want things done the way they were being done. I'd think that should come across loud and clear. If he wants the support of the people the best thing he could do is renounce his allegiance to the Party and align himself with the people. They are worlds apart and getting further by the day.

    January 28, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. all the news that's fit to omit

    My hope is that he GOES at the head of a table with all Republicans and Democrats and shows it on C-SPAN and finds common Healthcare ground and GET'S real reform passed.

    My hope is he stops GOING all over the world apologizing for this great nation and fires Holder for his 50 minute questioning of someone that wanted to kill Americans OR you agree with this incredible lack of fortitude and foresight.

    My hope is that he stops GOING on TV and starts acting like a leader, we HEARD you barry and we DON'T want the garbage you are selling.

    If not, I KNOW you will GO away come 2012 and thankfully.

    January 28, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. juliet hartford ct

    With Sen Landrieu comments who needs enemy if you and your party cannot be on the same page, no wonder the GOP keeping knocking off the Dems one by one....and if i were the GOP i would keeping doing what they are doing , they did say the Dems would shoot themselves in the foot and they are so right.

    January 28, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    President Obama needs to get back in the trenches and send plainly worded bills to Congress for consideration and passage. He needs to send them with INSTRUCTIONS:
    "If you attach ANYTHING, I will veto it and send it back. You will not get ANYTHING passed into law (with my signature) unless and/or until you pass the following:
    COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH CARE REFORM
    An intelligent Jobs bill
    Campaign Finance Reform.
    Thank You In Advance For Your Understanding And Cooperation."

    January 28, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. dan smith

    Obama always sounds like an eight grader when he gives a speech. People are finally starting to see through his lies and half truths. It's time Obama to quit blaming the other guy for things that are his own fault.

    January 28, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. Bill

    ALL of the compromises made for Repulicans should be strippped from the health care bill – they are not going to vote for it anyway – they just want to strall it until it dies – and with the best health care package possible voted in by majority, the American people would see WHO wants a serious health care system – and let the Republicans vote NO on it so the AMerican people can see WHO wants a good health care system and WHO DOES NOT.

    January 28, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. jeff

    It is ALL talk.
    He gives great speach if you know what I mean, but does not or can not back it up with action.
    So the speech will play well with independents until he leaves them wanting when they see again nothing changes.

    January 28, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  17. If you want something ruined, put a republican in charge

    He will continue to do what is best for Americans without any republican support.

    January 28, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  18. Rick

    Two rat's leaving a sinking ship.

    January 28, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  19. Concerned Canadian

    I believe Obama needs to come right out and state that war and the manufacture of its required weaponry is now such an integral part of the US economy that peace is no longer possible .

    January 28, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. Ancient Texan

    I thought the $787 Billion Porkulas bill was job creation (plus another $75 Billion we now find out). How many more billion is this next "Jobs" Boondoggle going to cost the Nation? THis is in the face of the proposed "Spending Freeze"? Which is it going to be?

    January 28, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  21. dan smith

    After hearing one of Reagan's great State of the Union speech's and then hearing that childish speech from Obama, I have to wonder why we have to settle for mediocre politicians like Obama. Unfortunately for America there will never be another Ronald Reagan.

    January 28, 2010 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. buckeye

    Almost exactly 50 years ago, President Eisenhower warned us about the rise of the military-industrial complex. The current President, like nearly all predecessors, turned into a cheerleader for this enormous drain on our economy and security.

    January 28, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  23. No More Incumbents

    He is either totally delusional or the most accomplished liar I've ever seen. In one breath he points to no more earmarks, more transparency, bi-partisan cooperation, all while pointing out he inherited these problems, and forgetting he ordered the clowns in congress to go behind closed doors and hammer out healthcare with whatever sweetheart deals it required to get passed. He also forgets that he was part of the Democratic majority that voted for the $767billion bailout that Bush was gracious enough to sign so that Obama wouldn't have to have that around his neck when he took office. He also forgets he hired Lobbyists in his cabinet and has not posted bills on the Internet as he promised. To top it all off, he plans to spend money paid back to TARP for additional programs it was not authorized for. Isn't that illegal? And let's tax the banks that have paid back the Tarp funds with interest and let GM, AIG, Fannie and Freddie be exempt. Sounds fair. We must be a nation of idiots, or at least a majority.

    January 28, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. dan smith

    He should be run out of Washington on a rail.

    January 28, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. dan smith

    All of the Democrats and several Republicans should be tarred and feathered.

    January 28, 2010 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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