One of the more insightful pre-speech items, from CNN, pointed to three numbers to keep in mind during the address: 6, 30 and 43. Six is the number of seats Republicans have to win to gain control of the Senate. Thirty is the historical average of House seats won by the out-of-power party in the midterm election in a president’s sixth year. And 43 percent is Obama’s job approval rating (no poll cited but the latest four surveys showed: Gallup 41 percent, Rasmussen 48 percent, PPP (D) 41 percent and NBC/WSJ 43 percent).
President Obama’s strategy for more end runs around Congress was confirmed by the White House before the speech with the announcement that he would sign an executive order setting a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour for employees of federal contractors, up from the existing $7.25. The action will apply to future contracts only and thus affect a relatively small number of workers. How many? House Speaker John Boehner said, “I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero.”
The Washington Post cited Obama aides as saying the executive order “is meant to underscore an increased willingness by the president to bypass Congress if lawmakers continue to resist his agenda.” What’s this “increased willingness?” Obama has been more than willing to use executive orders to get around enforcing immigration laws, provisions of his own health care law and other laws he disagrees with.
White House press secretary Jay Carney made it clear the day before the speech. He told reporters, “You can be sure that the president fully intends to use his executive authority to use the unique powers of the office to make progress on economic opportunity, to make progress in the areas that he believes are so important to further economic growth and further job creation.”
The strategy marks a switch from talk of fixing “income inequality” to something that might “reflect the everyday concerns of Americans,” said the Washington Post. But will it work? Will it do much to shore up his poor approval rating? There’s a huge problem for the president. Most Americans do not believe his decisions will be best for the nation going forward.
The latest Washington Post-ABC poll found only 37 percent with “a great deal” or “good amount” of confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country’s future, while 63 percent had “just some confidence” or “none at all” in him. Sixty-two percent felt the country was “pretty seriously off on the wrong track.”
The poll showed 55 percent disapproval of Obama’s handling of the economy and a whopping 59 percent disapproval of the implementation of his own health care law.
The state of mind of the Union is not good.