'Robin Hood' Obama to Go on Offense Tonight

SOTU could be his last shot at relevancy, pundits say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2015 6:05 AM CST
Updated Jan 20, 2015 7:48 AM CST
'Robin Hood' Obama to Go on Offense Tonight
President Obama speaks at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn., last week.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The centerpiece of President Obama's State of the Union address tonight will be what some are calling a "Robin Hood" tax plan to benefit the middle class at the expense of Wall Street and the wealthiest 1%—and while the proposals have little chance of making it intact through a GOP-controlled Congress, analysts see the president's penultimate SOTU address as his best chance to stay relevant through 2016.

  • The White House feels it has momentum on its side after the executive actions that followed the midterms, and in a bid to frame the 2016 election, Obama will try to cast GOP Republicans as "Sheriffs of Nottingham" defending the rich, writes Justin Sink at the Hill. The GOP has already declared the president's proposals dead on arrival, he notes, but the White House plans to keep rolling out new plans after the speech in an effort to force Republicans to engage.

  • With so much of the agenda revealed in advance—including free community college and paid sick leave—why bother watching the speech? The president's tone will be an important clue as to how he plans to deal with the GOP majority, where there's plenty of room for cooperation on issues like international trade deals and the fight against ISIS, writes Russell Berman at the Atlantic.
  • Obama will use the speech to "effectively declare victory over the economic hard times that dominated his first six years in office" and move on to issues like economic inequality, writes Peter Baker at the New York Times, who notes that the address at this stage of a presidency often marks a "final chance to move past difficulties" like Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, Bill Clinton's impeachment, and George W. Bush's terrible year in Iraq and midterm thumping.
  • Politico surveyed political strategists about what surprises could lie ahead tonight, and they split largely along party lines, with GOP media consultant Rick Wilson predicting "trillions in new spending on soft, focus-group-friendly giveaways and boondoggles," while former White House aide Stephanie Cutter expects Obama to "speak more forcefully than he has during any other State of the Union about the enormous economic growth and high job numbers the country is experiencing."
  • This SOTU aims to be the most tech-savvy such address, reports Vox. The White House will live-stream the speech here, but it'll also post info boxes to a grid explaining Obama's proposals. "You'll be able to answer questions and respond to prompts, share feedback, discover related material, and see and share social media content," says a White House official. The House GOP, meanwhile, plans to do some real-time fact-checking here.
  • Here's who to look for in Michelle Obama's box.
(Read more State of the Union Address stories.)

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