Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

5 things we learned from the State of the Union

    Just Watched

    Obama calls for unity

Obama calls for unity 03:56

Story highlights

  • Obama's State of the Union address could have been a campaign speech from last year
  • While he did give a nod to the opposing party, some of his proposals are non-starters with GOP
  • Obama says proposals won't increase debt, but officials won't say how they'll be paid for
  • President made it clear that if Congress won't deal with issues, he'll do it by executive order

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.

State of the Union brings out more of the 'same old, same old'

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.

      Just Watched

      Obama: We must act on climate change

    Obama: We must act on climate change 01:49
    PLAY VIDEO

      Just Watched

      Gingrich and Granholm debate on CNN

    Gingrich and Granholm debate on CNN 03:57
    PLAY VIDEO

      Just Watched

      Obama: Shooting victims deserve vote

    Obama: Shooting victims deserve vote 00:59
    PLAY VIDEO

      Just Watched

      Watch Obama's State of the Union speech

    Watch Obama's State of the Union speech 59:47
    PLAY VIDEO

    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.

    53% of those watching speech give Obama thumbs up

    2. 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.

    GOP's Rubio rips Obama, says his plans will hurt middle class

    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.

    Obama hearts Romney in State of the Union

    3. Show me the money

    Proposals he floated would make high-quality preschool available to every child, provide tax credits for businesses to hire and invest, promote more scientific research and development, further shift cars and trucks away from gasoline, and invest in infrastructure. "Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime." he said. "It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."

    But White House officials refuse to put a price tag on the programs -- or to reveal how, in fact, they would be paid for. They promised more details when the White House's budget proposal is released in a few weeks.

    CNN Fact Check: Obama on fuel economy -- Your mileage may vary

    4. If they won't, I will

    The president demonstrated clearly how he plans to aggressively use executive actions to push policy if Congress thwarts him and he announced action on climate change and cybersecurity.

    "If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will," he said. "I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

    After efforts dealing with cybersecurity failed to pass Congress, the president signed an executive order to increase information-sharing and to help the private sector develop standards. These moves came after the president last month approved 23 executive actions dealing with gun control.

    Obama also used the speech to make his base happy by emphasizing such liberal priorities as climate change and equal treatment and benefits for gay Americans as well as announcing a bipartisan commission to improve the voting system and pushing for a hike in the minimum wage.

    CNNMoney: The impact of a $9 minimum wage

    5. Even presidents can't control the news

    While the White House tried to build up suspense around what the president would say, as soon as news broke Tuesday afternoon that accused cop-killer Christopher Dorner was believed to be holed up in a cabin in the California mountains, much of the media immediately switched gears.

    What would have been hours of coverage of what was expected from the speech, what Obama's message might be and discussion of his agenda did not happen.

    Would this be another split-screen State of the Union similar to when networks flashed news of the verdict in O.J. Simpson's civil trial during Bill Clinton's 1997 address?

    That did not happen this time but as soon as Obama wrapped up most news organizations quickly updated viewers on the Dorner story.

    But the president might have gotten an unintended benefit from the other story of the day -- interest in Dorner might have helped boost the audience for the address.

    Opinion: Obama dares Congress to get the job done

        2013 State of the Union

      • WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12:  U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Facing a divided Congress, Obama focused his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and said, "It?s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth".  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

        The heart of President Barack Obama's speech Tuesday was the same focus that's driven every State of the Union of his presidency.
      • Obama shakes hands with House Speaker John Boehner before delivering the address.

        President Barack Obama launched three days of campaign-style speeches with a visit to a manufacturing plant that he said epitomized his proposals for job creation.
      • President Barack Obama is greeted before his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, February 12.

        CNN asked viewers to post a #tweetoftheunion on Twitter summarizing Obama's State of the Union speech.
      • As with any State of the Union address, President Barack Obama had several audiences and there were multiple aims for the White House.
      • sotu2013 gop response rubio entire_00124817.jpg

        Claiming Barack Obama thinks a "free enterprise economy" is "the cause of our problems" -- not, as he sees it, the solution -- Sen. Marco Rubio argued that the president's proposals would hurt middle class citizens more than help them.
      •  	SPANISH FORK, UT - NOVEMBER 24: A car makes it's way up U.S. Highway 6 as several 2.1 mega watt wind powered turbines owned by Edison Mission Energy, sit a the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon November 24, 2008 in Spanish Fork, Utah. Each turbine is 300 feet tall, with three 150 foot blades. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior, Michael D. Olsen, said the potential for production of wind energy on public lands in the West is 'tremendous,' with the alternative energy source already accounting for the fastest growing energy sector in the U.S. Last year the U.S. saw a 46 percent increase in wind capacity and $9 billion in new investments, he said. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

        President Barack Obama talked up alternative energy. Not only did he tout the solar and natural gas industries' recent gains, he also talked up the amount of wind energy that's now fueling the country.
      • sot nixon 1974 dkg sotu_00001914.jpg

        From the Great Society to the Axis of Evil, here are historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's top State of the Union moments.
      • First Lady Michelle Obama, center, is recognized by the audience and special guests surrounding her before President Barack Obama's 2013 SOTU. Front row, left to right: Sgt. Sheena Adams, Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendelton, Michelle Obama, Menchu de Luna Sanchez and Jill Biden. Second row, left to right: Governor John Kitzhaber, Deb Carey, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amanda McMillan, and Lieutenant Brian Murphy.

        Earlier presidents delivered a written message to be read to Congress before the tradition became at TV event.