Archives: Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address - Analysis & Predictions

Originally published in January 2010
Simon Nguyen

The 2010 State of the Union address marks the beginning of President Obama’s second year in office. 2009 was a tough year for Barack Obama. He was able to accomplish some of what he wanted, while failed to achieve health care reforms—his signature issue. The president’s popularity has also seen a steady decline. Obama started his term with a 70% approval rating; his current rating is at roughly 50%. The 2010 State of the Union address offers President Obama an opportunity for a fresh start with the American people and a chance to refocus his domestic agenda. 

Barack Obama’s biggest challenge came just a few days ago. The unheralded Republican candidate Scott Brown managed to accomplish the near impossible—to win the senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy. The fact that a Republican was able to win a senatorial race in liberal Massachusetts sends a strong signal to both the Democrat-controlled congress and the President with regards to their domestic agenda. President Obama’s State of Union speech will have to address key shortcomings that have led to his party’s surprise defeat.

Many political experts point to the populist tone used by Republican candidates as the key reason for their recent election successes. In his State of the Union speech, President Obama is expected to play the populist card. The president’s most likely targets will be the Wall Street’s “fat cats” he often derides. One should expect that Mr. Obama will lay down new and tougher regulations, to be imposed on the financial sector in 2010. At the same time, Obama will attempt to reframe his health care reform agenda. The president won’t promise any compromise, but will try to humanize health care reforms. He is likely to focus on the more popular aspects of the health care bill, while straying away from the unpopular aspects such as costs and mandates.

If you are a liberal Democrat, Obama’s State of the Union is likely to disappoint you as the address will bear a populist tone rather than a progressive tone. The president will attempt to stay away from progressive issues such as illegal immigration, gay marriage, and the environment. Instead, Obama will pledge more tax cuts for the middle class as a way to stimulate the economy, more assistance to small businesses to help create jobs, and a tougher stance on terrorism. One should expect the president to be very hawkish when discussing his 2010 national defense agenda. It may be very unlikely, but I would not be surprised if President Obama will be hinting more troops for Afghanistan and elsewhere in his State of the Union speech.

Second-year presidents often use their State of the Union addresses to tout their accomplishments over the past year. The 2010 State of the Union will not be an exception. President Obama will use this opportunity to discuss what he has accomplished so far. He is likely to praise his administration’s purport success in averting a potential economic depression, as well as its effort to stabilize the financial sector (though the term “bailout” will be curiously missing from his speech.) Obama will also praise the U.S. humanitarian effort in Haiti and give kudos to the generosity of the American people who have given over $400 million to the effort. The president will of course be critical of some of the administration’s failings such as the inability to foil the Christmas terrorist attack and Fort Hood shooting.

The 2010 State of the Union address is the most anticipated and closely watched speech in years. How President Obama performs will surely determine whether or not he will be successful in pushing his 2010 agenda. The State of the Union speech is scheduled for prime time on Wednesday, January 27, 2010. I will give my post-address thoughts on another article.

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