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Strategic Insights from Obama's SOTU Address

At the Washington Monthly Political Animal, TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore, who live blogged extensively, observed:

... While Obama's speech probably won't move public opinion mountains, and he may have been a mite subtle in calling out the GOP, it was a strong performance that left Republicans looking either clueless (Rubio) or uncomfortable (Boehner). On the big issues, Obama and Democrats were already playing from a stronger hand, and he strengthened it on a pretty broad front tonight.

In another WaMo entry, Kilgore added, "I thought speech clever in how he handled challenge to GOP; very Clintonian in policy offerings (and better than past SOTUs); and pretty good at taking advantage of areas where public opinion pretty much already on his side. Minimum wage increase good example: Republican pols and business leaders hate it, public loves it."

On Sen. Rubio's much-hyped response, Kilgore notes, "Better delivery than Jindal, but his speechwriter ought to be fired. Was there anything "new" in it at all? Even a single original line? Don't think so."

At the American Prospect Jamelle Bouie credits the President with advancing a "bold progressive agenda," but one with little chance of passing, with the exception of a modest gun violence and immigration reform. Bouie concludes that it's "a signpost for future Democrats and not a plan of action."

An editorial in today's New York Times added, "While many of the president's proposals were familiar, and will probably be snuffed out by politics, his speech explained to a wide audience what could be achieved if there were even a minimal consensus in Washington." In a New York Times op-ed, former Clinton speechwriter Ted Widmer conceded that "much of the program unveiled in the address will get stalled," but added "This was an important State of the Union, a declaration of principles as President Obama begins his next term."

The Nation's Josh Eidelson notes that organized labor liked the president's proposal to index the minimum wage for the first time.

At WaPo's The Fix, Chris Cillizza credits the President with unprecedented seriousness on curbing gun violence: "Obama's comments on guns will be the lasting legacy of this speech and a sign that his past pledges to use all of his political power to bring about measures he believes will curb gun violence was not simply rhetoric." Cillizza also noted "as direct a call for action by Congress on climate change as you will hear from a president."

The Plum Line's Greg Sargent has an insightful post on the SOTU, observing "The proposals Obama laid out yesterday are likely to continue cementing the degree to which core growing constituencies -- Latinos; young voters; college educated whites, especially women; and even to some extent non-college white women -- identify with the Democratic Party. Reflexive GOP opposition to all these things could exacerbate the party's estrangement from these groups."

Sargent also cites a CNN poll showing that :

...77 percent had a very or somewhat positive reaction to it. The more important findings, however, may be related to the policies he proposed. Seven in 10 said the gun policies would move the country in the right direction; over three fourths approved of the immigration policies; and nearly two-thirds said his plans will improve the economy.

At Salon.com, Joan Walsh called attention to the dog that didn't bark:

Maybe most important, he didn't use the address to make another call for a "grand bargain" to avert either sequester cuts or a future government shutdown or debt-ceiling crisis, as had been suggested. He didn't commit to disturbing Social Security cuts like chained CPI. And while we need more details on his vague reference to making "wealthy seniors pay more" for Medicare, since it could involve a regressive form of means-testing, he didn't use this moment to rally the country behind benefit cuts.

At Politico, Katie Glueck has a round-up of "Obama's 10 best lines, including this gem on his infrastructure proposals: "And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I've seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings."