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The Super Bowl of Speeches

President Obama has a recent surge in approval ratings. Some believe his performance with tonight’s State of the Union speech could cause those numbers to rise even higher. Bill Stamps spoke with one local political observer about what’s at stake.



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How important is the State of the Union address for President Obama?

“This is the Super Bowl of the president’s year, so they tend to be very ready for this.”

Brandon Rottinghaus is a University of Houston professor who specializes in public opinion and legislative relations. He says the stars have aligned for the president, giving him a chance to improve his approval numbers. Part of this is because of his recent speech at the memorial service in Arizona, and the fact that his number have already jumped a bit.

2010 State of the Union
President Barack Obama delivers the 2010 State of the Union address a joint session of the 111th United States Congress on January 27, 2010.

“There’s going to be debate, I think, as to how effective the president in terms of his speech, but it’s part of a larger debate about whether or not the president is generally successful in attempts to persuade the American public.”

Rottinghaus says this could be the President’s chance to make some headway with the new Republican Congress, but he also says that attempt could backfire.

“There are scholars and political scientists who say presidents actually shoot themselves in the foot by going public, because it really hampers their ability to bargain. And so when presidents begin to call out members of Congress and challenge them to do certain things, members of Congress dig in say ‘wait a minute, why are you challenging us on this?—These are our issues.’”

So what’s his prediction for this State of the Union speech?

“My prediction is that he’s going to choose a few bipartisan issues and those are the ones he going to encourage the Republicans to work with him. But he’s also has to draw a line in the sand, and that’s going to be on some big issue that he’s not willing to compromise with.”
One thing he says the president probably won’t talk about is healthcare.

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