Obama’s SOTU: A bold speech or just a speech about everything?

Read few comments.


1. Was there something surprising in the speech or did the President talk about topics everybody expected?

2. This is first SOTU address of Barack Obama in his second term. Was it different compared to his previous speeches?


Steven GreeneAssociate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

1. Perhaps the surprise is that the president talked about everything.  There was hardly an issue that liberals support that didn’t get a meaningful mention in the president’s speech.  I think perhaps the biggest substantive surprise was the fact that easily his greatest passion and rhetorical emphasis was on gun control.  This is an issue where he will have quite a difficult time working with Congress to pass any meaningful legislation, but by the nature of his passion and rhetoric he was really committing himself to the issue and refusing to back down on an issue which many feel may be a strategic loser for him.  Lots of commentary that this was clearly the emotional high-point of the speech.

2. A little harder to address, as the truth is, past speeches are quickly forgotten.   That said, this is clearly a bolder, more ambitious speech than his past two SOTU addresses.  Regardless of the fact that he faces a recalcitrant House of Representatives controlled by Republicans, Obama has clearly been emboldened in the results of the 2012 election and believes in making sharp contrasts with Republicans and strongly putting forward his policy vision for the country.

David McCuanAssistant Professor of Political Science, Sonoma State University

This speech really kicks off the final episode of the Obama Presidential series.  As such, this last of State of the Union for President Barack Obama was heavily focused on domestic policy, spending but eleven minutes on foreign policy.  The speech that ran for about one hour was focused on re-tooling the next four years of his presidency with a focus on setting forth his vision for jobs, turning around the economy, and setting forth his policy priorities.

The address was wide-ranging and expanisve covering a host of policy issues that were less about the “No Drama Obama” of the past and more about setting forth Big Ideas about his vision for the future of the country.  The speech really drew strong distinctions between Obama’s Democratic Party and the GOP.  This was a speech where the President’s victory lap from a strong November re-election effort pushed several ideas central to his role as both Commander-in-Chief (such as his Administration’s initiatives from Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, to the EU, and widening the fight against Al-Qaeda) and as the Central Player in the Beltway.   The speech drew clear distinctions with several sets of voters that re-elected this President – with women, with young people, and with Hispanic voters.  The President pressed hard on guns, tax reform, energy independence, and on protecting Social Security and Medicare.

It was an ambitious, expansive, and all-out push against the GOP…when the President needs a few Members from that side of the aisle to make much of his legislative agenda possible.  It will be interesting to see how long this push and these ideas last…or, if they fade away under a push from a recalcitrant GOP and a reluctant group of legislative leaders in Congress.

Can the President make tonight’s victory lap last more than just a few months, perhaps even up to a year or so?  That is a key question moving forward.

Eric Ostermeier, Research Associate, Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, University of Minnesota

The President’s speech was similar to those of past years in that he incorporated a combination of specific proposals (e.g. scorecards for Universities, $9 federal minimum wage) and general plans (e.g. reducing the deficit) into the address. Critics will say he was not specific enough, but his allies will say he laid out a bold plan.

Overall, President Obama’s primary focus was on domestic issues, which has also been an emphasis for the president in his other State of the Union addresses.

Linguistically, the speech was similar to those delivered in previous years in that he chose to repeat a specific refrain through the speech (this year it was for the federal government to “get things done”, and he applied it to many policies).


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