Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 28, 2014
Knowing how much is at stake for his party this November, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night was filled with many make-or-break moments for Congressional Democrats – and it showed.
One of the most tell-tale signs was the fact that the president hardly talked about three of the Democrats’ biggest policy issues in 2013 – issues that the American people will be considering when they vote in November – gun control, healthcare and immigration. There was nary a mention of ‘gun control’ in his address, just a call for Congress to “help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans” in the wake of events like Sandy Hook.
This time last year, public support for national gun control measures was at an all-time high, with 51 percent of Americans supporting stricter gun control laws according to a January 2013 Rasmussen Reports study. Today,Americans would feel much safer if they could have armed communities and better enforcement of the laws already on the books rather than new laws and weaponry bans.
Obama then dedicated a mere 462 words to the Affordable Care Act; to put that into perspective, the president’s entire speech was about 6,000 words in total. For the Obama Administration, 2013 was the year of healthcare reform as a result of the program’s impending implementation, however the numerous problems and issues surrounding Obamacare and its affiliated website have made the issue a sore spot for other Democrats nationwide.
Immigration reform also netted a scant 121 words – of which none of them was the controversial word ‘amnesty.’
So what was in the president’s speech then? Obama focused instead on what he believes to be safer issuesheaded into a contentious midterm election – economic stability through job creation, new energy policies and raising the national minimum wage. He’s right to a degree: Americans do want to see the economy improve and more Americans find steady, fulfilling jobs in 2014 – but his proposals for achieving these goals are simply wrong for us, and will only hurt the economy more in years to come. Same goes for his push to make America more ‘green’ and ‘clean’ with solar and wind energy at the expense of proven job creators like the now practically scrapped Keystone XL Pipeline.
Arguably the most noticeable change between Tuesday’s address and those the president has given in past years, however, was the fact that it sounded more like a stump speech filled with personal anecdotes, and not a policy one laden with statistics and facts. Throughout the 65-minute address Americans learned about a Minnesota pizza chain owner who raised the minimum wage at his restaurants in what the White House views as “a good business move,” a mother of two who lost her job last year and is struggling to make ends meet without unemployment benefits, and a Detroit woman who started a job training facility to help former auto workers get the training they need to find new and better-paying jobs.
Being the shrewd politician he is, Obama knew that he couldn’t rest on his laurels if he wanted to help his party maintain its stronghold in the Senate and add to its ranks in the House. The political landscape heavily favors the GOP – particularly in the upper chamber, where nearly every contentious election this year will take place in a red state where a Democrat is either leaving office or up against a strong Republican challenger. According to University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, Republicans are favored to hold at least 49 seats in the chamber next year – meaning that they would just need to win at least two of the three remaining tossups (Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina) to take back the Senate. It has even been reported that some conservative Democrats – including Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana – are pressuring the White House in private to fix Obamacarebecause they fear that the issue will cost them re-election in November.
While a handful of surprise Republican retirements from legislators like Iowa Rep. Tom Latham and Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach have given Democrats some hope that they can shrink the GOP’s majority in the chamber, Republicans continue to hold a slight lead on the generic Congressional ballot headed into November, and redistricting after the 2010 Census should help to keep many of the seats in GOP hands during a good year. Moreover, the retirements of several longtime Democrats like North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre and Utah Rep. Jim Matheson mean that the party has essentially no room for error come November.
If there’s one thing that Obama rarely fails to be, it’s that he’s a great campaigner. Whether his campaign to keep his party afloat in November, as outlined in Tuesday’s speech, works is yet to be determined – but it’s clear from the address that November 4th was on his mind the entire time the speech was being drafted.