5 things we learned from the State of the Union

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 2/13/2013, 7:07 a.m.
As with any State of the Union address, President Barack Obama this year had several audiences and there were multiple ...
President Barack Obama

By Kevin Bohn

CNN

As with any State of the Union address, President Barack Obama this year had several audiences and there were multiple aims for the White House: To show that he understands the economy is still struggling and that he will do more to help the unemployed find jobs, and to portray a different side of himself than what was seen on Inauguration Day -- one willing to reach out to the other party.

While the president did offer some new proposals -- including increasing the minimum wage and guaranteeing preschool -- many of the ideas he pushed were repeating what he had previously offered but went nowhere in divided Washington. And we saw a president trying to expand the use of executive power to help push his agenda.

Here are five things we learned Tuesday night:

  1. It's still the economy, stupid

It very well could have been a campaign speech given last year -- the president talking about the need for a balanced approach to deficit reduction, at least four references to protecting the middle class, the need to reignite "the true engine of America's economic growth."

With the recovery still weak, unemployment at 7.9% and the nation's growth rate shrinking the last three months of 2012, the president and his team know much of his legacy may be dependent on helping reignite the economy. The president pushed for 15 manufacturing hubs to help spur high tech job growth.

With $85 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect on March 1, Obama pushed for a replacement of them because some economists warn they could lead to a recession. However, he did not give any ground on what he would accept as an alternative -- setting up the next major fiscal fight with Republicans.

  1. Mr. Bipartisan?

Facing hundreds of members of the opposing party, Obama took a decidedly different approach than he did in his aggressive inaugural address.

"They do expect us to put the nation's interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all," the president said early on in the address.

He even praised some Republicans -- he pointed to how Sen. John McCain, his 2008 opponent, worked with then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat turned Independent, on climate change. He mentioned his 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, and said we should try his idea of tying the minimum wage to the cost of living.

While he talked about how chances are good for bipartisan approaches on tax and immigration reform, Republicans can be expected to say they haven't seen a different approach so far from the president on many key issues: He wants more tax revenues and more government spending on his priorities, which are non-starters among Republicans.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed in a CNN/ORC instant poll of speech-watchers said they did not believe the address would lead to bipartisan cooperation while 39% said they thought it would.