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An Emboldened Obama Makes The Case For Middle-Class Economics

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington on Tuesday.
Mandel Ngan

Updated at 9:44 a.m. ET

The Wall Street Journal describes President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night as a " victory lap on the economy" while The New York Times said " it would have been easy to forget" that the address came just two months after his fellow Democrats were crushed in the midterms. Obama, while making the case for what he called middle class economics, declared that the state of the nation was strong.

One indicator of the president's mood: When he noted near the end of the speech that he had "no more campaigns to run," some Republicans applauded. His retort: I know, because I won both of them"

The Times adds:

"Never mind that his party actually lost the most recent elections, delivering control of both houses of Congress to the opposition for the first time during his presidency. For an hour on Tuesday night, Mr. Obama commanded the biggest stage he will have all year, unbowed and self-assured, laying out an expansive and expensive legislative agenda as if he were the one who had triumphed.

"Watching an emboldened Mr. Obama, it would have been easy to forget that he was standing there just two months after the biggest electoral repudiation of his presidency. Indeed, with economic indicators on the rise and his own poll numbers rebounding slightly, he made no reference at all to the midterm elections, offered no concessions about his own leadership and proposed no compromises to accommodate the political reality."

The Journal noted that while Republicans have opposed Obama's past calls to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, "the two parties' shared interest in speaking more directly to economic anxiety and wage stagnation has the potential to push them to find common ground."

The newspaper's website also has a graphic outlining Obama's past proposals and how much progress he made on those stated goals.

NPR's Scott Horsley reported on the speech for our Newscast unit this morning. He said:

"President Obama celebrated just how far the country has come since the deep recession that began seven years ago. With the economy growing, the deficit shrinking and domestic energy production surging, Obama says the United States has a choice to make of where it goes from here."

The president called for higher investment taxes on the richest Americans, and for the proceeds to benefit working families.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, offered the GOP response to Obama's speech. As NPR's Christopher Dean Hopkins noted, Ernst, who in 2014 became the first woman elected to the Senate from Iowa, echoed many of the themes in Obama's speech, but also reinforced her party's opposition to Iran and the Affordable Care Act.

Obama visits Boise, Idaho, today to begin building support for many of the proposals he made in Tuesday's speech.

Here's what others are saying about Obama's speech:

Obama Lays Out Steps To Skeptical CongressThe Wall Street Journal

A Bold Call To Action, Even If No Action Is LikelyThe New York Times

Assertive Call To Reform Tax Code, Fight TerrorismThe Washington Post

Obama Leading From The Front Again Politico

You can find more of NPR's coverage of the State of the Union here:

What President Obama Proposed

Obama Lays Out 2015 Agenda

Transcript Of Obama's speech

GOP Responses

Transcript of Sen. Joni Ernst's Response

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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