This is the First State of the Union of the lame-duck period of the Obama Presidency.
A majority of voters disapprove of his job performance (51.7 percent), barely more than one-third trust him to do what is right for the country (37 percent), and he has about as much chance of moving major legislation through Congress as I do.
So from a policy perspective, it probably doesn’t matter what the heck Obama says. But there’s still politics, and that’s where his State of the Union address could be interesting.
Obama could try to stave off what seem like impending losses to his party in the Senate and further erosion in the House. The model for that is pretty clear, he could continue to beat the drum about the “War on Women” that served him so well in the last election, while also fearmongering about senior issues and trying to box Republicans in on immigration.
There’s no guarantee that would work, but that’s Obama’s best strategy if he wants to support his party.
But instead, White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer is leaking a plan of action centered on class warfare, a focus on income inequality, and a resolve to use executive orders to impose whatever small parts of his extreme leftist agenda that Obama can still manage to impose on a struggling country and economy.
If there was ever any doubt that Obama is absolutely ready to sell out his party’s long-term prospects for whatever short-term relevance he can recover, this speech will probably dispel it forever.
Obama already had almost no chance of getting his proposals through a Republican House. But now he’s basically giving up even the idea that his own party’s Senate will go out of their way to support his ideas.
While many will compare this moment in the Obama presidency to that of George W. Bush, it’s worth noting that Bush’s challenges were almost all the result of fighting a series of increasingly unpopular wars.
President Bush sacrificed his popularity to do what he believed was right for our country and our future security. Obama seems to have sacrificed his popularity to a series of boondoggles and his own hubris.
It’s still possible that Obama could restore some small amount of luster to his presidency with an amazing speech. He was always a better campaigner than he was a manager, leader, or policy-maker.
But even that seems unlikely as we enter the final stages long, slow, sad decline of the candidate who once stood for hope and change.
Chris Wilson is the CEO of WPA Research, a public opinion research firm whose clients include Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee