With one poll showing his popularity among Latino voters at 70 percent, it’s in Obama’s interest to press that advantage in the State of the Union and convey the message that on immigration, he has the interests of the Latino constituency at heart.
Despite December’s massacre in Newtown, Conn., and the January murder of Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton — whose parents will also attend the State of the Union — congressional will to pass gun control legislation is already evaporating. So Obama should take the opportunity in his address to accentuate the universal background checks that are most likely to become law, and then he should move on — because the gun fight is one that a future president will have to win.
And after he’s done with his to-do list, if there’s a SOTU “don’t” for Obama, it’s on drone warfare. Because even with renewed inside-the-Beltway controversy over Obama’s aggressive use of drones, 83 percent of the public approves of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. If he chooses, he can afford to leave that one alone.
Otherwise, Obama would be well-advised to go easy on pronouncements about infrastructure spending or new education initiatives. Because until he can wrangle a basic budget deal with Congress, most Americans won’t have much faith that he can deliver school reform or light rail.
After Tuesday, Obama will still have three more tries for a more expansive State of the Union. But this time, instead of a stem-winder or a laundry list, he needs an immediate game plan.
He needs to set out what he plans to do. And do it.
David Swerdlick is a contributing editor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.