Reaction to Obama’s Optimistic State of the Union Speech Follows Party Lines

By David Cruz

President Obama was as loose as the leader of the free world could be during his penultimate State of the Union address. Unencumbered by the prospect of mid-term elections or his own reelection, Obama released his inner liberal with a litany of left-leaning proposals that party faithful rejoiced in hearing.

“He seemed happy, I’ll say that,” chuckled Analilia Mejia, executive director of NJ Working Families Alliance. She’s been pushing a lot of what the president put in his speech yesterday, from immigration reform to passing a state minimum wage referendum to getting municipalities like Newark and Jersey City to adopt paid sick leave. She said she welcomes the president’s new-found enthusiasm for these issues.

“We honestly think that his new-found … initiative is hopefully going to translate into action at the local level, so we’re already having conversations with local municipalities on how to take on the earned sick day initiative, across other places in New Jersey,” she added. “Our objective remains the same. We’re glad that he’s enthusiastic. It really is about rebuilding the middle class and working families across this state.”

There may have been politics of the philosophical kind on display last night but the undertones of electoral politics were in evidence here as well. As much as the president was talking about Congress coming together, the bottom line was trying to appeal to voters, who will be electing a new president next year.

“I have no more campaign to run,” said the president, a line which got some chuckles and applause from Republicans. “I know,” he added, “because I won both of ‘em.”

Gov. Chris Christie, in Maryland for the inauguration of Gov. Larry Hogan, had his say on Obama’s speech, too. “I thought the most ironic part of what the president said last night was when he said he ran his last campaign and it sounded to me like a campaign speech, like the ’04 speech, the ’08 speech, so that surprised me a little bit,” he said. “I thought he had an opportunity to try to unite the country and he didn’t take it.”

As loose as the president may have seemed last night, most Democrats acknowledge the agenda he proposed has a very slim chance of making it through this Congress. But as the opening line of a 2016 narrative, the speech was probably just what the party ordered.