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President Obama: Nation is Turning A Page; Reacting to the State of the Union

Aired January 20, 2015 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And it is 11:00 here on the east coast of the United States here. Tonight, President Obama telling the nation that the shadow of crisis has past. He says America is freer to write its own future because of the economic rebound that happened on his watch.

I'm Anderson Cooper. We're in Washington obviously with the special edition of AC360. We are just minutes away from the first results of CNN's instant digital dial test.

People watched the president's speech, shared their reactions online in real time. We will show you the high and low points. We're also standing by for the first results of an instant telephone poll of the speech watchers.

Let's go back to Wolf Blitzer reporting the pivotal moments of the night.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, the president says that the nation is turning the page on more than a decade of war and recession, spent much of his speech talking about America's economic progress over these past six years, and ways to give working families even more opportunities.

And he warned members of the new Republican-controlled House and Senate, he'd use his veto pen if they stand in his way.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the verdict is clear, middle class economics works, expanding opportunity works and these policies will continue to work as long as politics don't get in the way.

We can't slow down businesses or put our economy at risk with government shutdowns or fiscal showdowns. We can't put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or re-fighting past battles on immigration when we got to fix a broken system.

And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. Today thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally starting to rise again. We know that more small business owners are planning to raise their employee's pay than at any time since 2007.

But here is the thing, those of us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than making sure that government does not screw things up. The government doesn't halt the progress that we are making.

We need the do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let's do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.


BLITZER: Clearly, Jake Tapper, the Democrats loved what they heard from the president of the United States today. It's hard to believe that only a few months ago before the midterm elections, so many of those of Democrats who were up for re-election or trying to get themselves elected did not want to be seen with this president out there on the campaign trail, because they were afraid that it could hurt their chances.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, whether or not that was the right decision, I think it's up for debate. Obviously a lot of them lost re-election. President Obama today is making a very, very forceful case for more help for the middle-class and the tax code.

And one of the biggest ways he proposed of doing that, Wolf, was proposing free for them, and not for the country, but free community college.

BLITZER: Two years.

TAPPER: Two years of community college, and there are a number of people in the first lady's box watching the State of the Union address who are examples of how community college can succeed.

I had been under the impression from others in the administration that the president was going to specifically describe how he would want that paid for, but I did not hear a description of that.

There have been things floated about maybe removing the tax credit for individuals saving for college education for their children and taking that away to help pay for wealthier individuals to pay for the community college.

But I did not hear that, and that is going to be one of the next issues that we will hear over the next few days how would the president propose to pay for the things that he wants to do to help the middle-class.

BLITZER: We know how he wants to pay for the additional tax benefits, tax credits for the middle class by raising the taxes on the wealthy and raising the taxes and fees on the financial institutions like banks. But you're right he did not say how he would pay for two years of free community college, and if you go to high school for free, why not two more years of free education, and this is the United States.

TAPPER: Obviously a lofty idea, and the idea that the individuals who have not experienced this economic recovery who don't have the skills and training to provide them with the skills and training so they can be part of this economic rebound.

But who is going to be paying for the education and the retraining, I did not hear it in the speech. There is a lot of details that we need to hear more.

BLITZER: He'll be presenting his budget presumably we'll get some of those details once he formally does. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Yes, the president clearly tailored a lot of his speech to the middle class talking about their stake in America's economy. Listen to some more of what he said.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: If you truly believe that you can work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it. If not, vote to give millions to the hardest working people in America a raise.


COOPER: I want to bring in our new panel, Kevin Madden, is joining us, CNN political commentator, Republican strategist and also Karen Finney, Democratic strategist, former director of communications for the Democratic National Committee, and Ana Navarro, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist and after 11:00, Jay Carney turns into Paul Begala.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Definitely a downgrade for Carney.

COOPER: Kevin Madden, what did you hear tonight?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I thought we saw a very confident President Obama at the beginning part of the speech. You could tell he feels that his administration has the wind at its back particularly after the last election in a way that counters against the election results.

But we also saw a President Obama return to the message that worked so well for him in 2008 and 2012. I think that is what really was driving his confidence.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I actually agree with Kevin, how about that? I mean, I think you saw a president that it is time for the legacy and in terms of going back to some of those messages. This is part of building towards the legacy of the Obama administration, the narrative that they want when he leaves office. And then secondly, the president was laying down the marker, I mean, a lot of the ideas that he has talked about, he has talked about them before. There were some new ideas that we've heard over the weekend, but this idea of building the middle-class is what essentially 2012 was waged on.

And in 2014, although some of the Democrats chose to run away from or didn't articulate that message, it was effective in some state, and look at the places where increasing the minimum wage actually passed. So he was sort of laying down message marker if you will.

COOPER: Ana, on the economy, does the president deserve some credit?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that the nation deserves some credit.

COOPER: You can't say that the president deserves credit?

NAVARRO: Well, think about the way he framed it, which I think was the right way to frame it. We are an American family that has gone through the tough times and now surpassing the times. I actually think it is the right frame to put it.

What I heard of the speech was carrots and sticks for everybody. There were things in the speech that Republicans liked, like ISIL and trade. There were things that Democrats didn't like. There were things that Democrats liked.

So I think it was a grab bag for everybody. It seemed to a balanced speech, an optimistic Barack Obama who we have not heard in six months be this peppy and this optimistic. So I think that it was a balanced speech that can get criticism and praise from all sides.

COOPER: Paul, Van Jones said that Barack Obama is back.

BEGALA: Yes, apparently, his staff hacked his news feed in November and feed him stories that he won a landslide. It was the most striking thing. The other thing, though, is it was very on the economic stuff, very populist, very middle class, very much in the face of the Republicans.

When you talk to my friends at the White House, they will point out not just the American people, but policy matters. When he passed the stimulus bill, the Republicans said it would explode the deficit, and now it is down from 1.4 trillion to 0.4 trillion.

And now, they said that Obamacare would put the country in a recession and explode health care costs. Health care costs are down. If you go through the things he has done and they have worked and the American people are rewarding him. And he's looking like he is --

COOPER: We just played the sound bite on the minimum wage, any chance that he will actually get a movement on that?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Some states did it, and in the ballot on some states, but it is approved in almost all of the states, but is this Republican Congress going to pass an increase in the federal minimum wage, no.

But to Paul's point, he worked for Bill Clinton both in the campaigns and in the White House, this was very much a Clinton, that was another Clinton watching at home and she tweeted out that she liked it.

This was very much a Bill Clinton speech. What is interesting to me is that Bill Clinton ran on a campaign. He litigated a Senate campaign where he said if you elect me, I will raise the taxes on the wealthy and redistribute that money to the middle-class.

That is what the president is proposing now. He just not had a campaign and the people have not voted on that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But if you want to talk about optimism, and Bill Clinton's optimism, and Ronald Reagan's optimism, and this is optimistic speech. We is haven't had a lot of optimism lately. It is amazing what an improving economy will do for you and a low unemployment rate will do for you.

COOPER: It's also his second to last one.

BORGER: It is and so he's kind of liberated. It's also the last time where he's actually going to make any kind of difference because you will be into 2016.

NAVARRO: You mean we are not into 2016 yet?

BORGER: Well, we can ask Kevin Madden about Mitt Romney, and then we will ask you about Jeb Bush as well in a moment.

MADDEN: And then I cannot answer you.

BORGER: And then this is going to set the table for up with way or another in 2016, because if he succeeds, it is easier for Hillary Clinton absolutely if the economy is good.

FINNEY: I disagree with your point. I mean, the 2012 election was very much about a lot of the things he talked about. I mean, it was a whole conversation about the 47 percent and the 1 percent, and the president won and I think that added to the kind of swagger that you heard tonight, and sort of ignoring to what happened in 2014.

NAVARRO: Karen, that was decades ago.

FINNEY: OK, but he won.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": And we are gathered around the table two months ago and if at the end of the night, someone were to say that the president would come out in two months in January and he would take a victory lap, none of us would have believed it.

And that is what we witnessed which is remarkable, but I wonder how many Democratic candidates watched it, and are having second thoughts of not embracing him and the vision. MADDEN: And that is a good point, Michael, but two big tests ahead of him in that sense. The first is, is this president going to be able to find a way to work with the Congress that he has either very bad relationships with or no relationships with. And the second is that the window is closing quickly. Six months from now, we are all going to be out with Iowa at a GOP debate.

NAVARRO: Are you?

MADDEN: And maybe not me, but you are all going to be, and very quickly the American public's a attention is going to turn to the 2016 campaign and so many of the candidates, and Hillary Clinton as their potential leader of the Democratic Party.

NAVARRO: Kevin, he has answered the question of can he work with Congress, and I think his answer was no because what we have seen is him doing more and more through the executive action. Anything done with Congress are going to be minor stuff and I think that's is why he is so liberate and feeling so good that --

MADDEN: And real quick, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have the jobs they have dreamed of having, and they want to get something done. So there is an opportunity there.

COOPER: But there are certainly a lot of Democrats who believe that the Republicans don't want to work with this president.

BEGALA: They campaigned and they won a landslide and the slogan was clear and we saw it, "stop Obama." It was not principled compromise. So if they were to do it, and honest free advice, and if they were to cut a deal with the president, meet him halfway.

So don't raise it the capital gains to 28, raise it to 25. Don't get the whole tax cut in the middle class -- they could cut a deal and water it down and they would put my friend Hillary should she run in the worst bind ever, because she would endorse weak tea, and they won't do that.

NAVARRO: And the Republicans when Paul Begala is giving advice on how the put Hillary Clinton in a bind, don't listen.

COOPER: We have the first results from CNN's digital dial test, realtime reaction to the president's remarks. Want to go to Tom Foreman with that, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we have about 2 million clicks on this and if you look at the flow, the lines of data out of this, it will give you an idea of what happened here. Some of it you may expect.

The line of the Democrats, they are sticking with the president throughout this in terms of what they clicked. It is not scientific, but it is interesting to look.

It is a sense of the feeling out there, and the purple line, that is the independents, the all-important independents, and you will see that they are not nearly as in lock step with the president as the Democrats, and in fact, the trend lines match more to the red Republicans over here although they don't have nearly the negative view of things as the Republicans.

Here's an area of strong disparity early on in the speech that gives you an idea of how they split and anything about the economy, and any time that the Republicans said it is going well, the Democrats said absolutely and look at this clip about wages.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives. Wages are finally rising again.


FOREMAN: Look at the split that happens here. This is the biggest split of the whole thing. Way down here with the Republicans, and with way up here to the Democrats, and the independents in the middle.

Why so differently? In part, look at the Republicans when you talk to them. They will tell you over and over again, they believe that one of the big issues is wage stagnation, and that a lot of people are not participating and so many people have dropped out of the workforce and skewing the numbers.

And another thing that came up here and tracking along the lines of the big disparity that program ha the president talked about paying for college. Take a look at that part of the graph here. Listen to how he spoke and how people responded.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: And yet we are living in a country where too many bright Americans are priced out of the education they need. It is not fair to them and not smart for the future. That is why I am sending this Congress a bold plan to lower the cost of community college to zero.


FOREMAN: Well, he certainly lowered the Republican support there, giant dive there. And independents are OK with this, but that at the end is where it is crashing down. Why does it crash down so much? Because simply put so many Republicans will look at all of this and say, that's this White House answer and the Democratic answer.

And when in doubt, give something away. It may not be fair, but that is why the Republicans dive down there, and we saw it over and over again tonight.

COOPER: Fascinating, and not scientific, but interesting to see the trend lines, and John King, you look at it a lot.

KING: Look, this has been one of the issues in the town, and in this presidency if Barack Obama is for it, the Republicans are against it. John McCain campaigned in 2008 not on free community college, but on reducing the costs of community college. He said it is critical to the 21st Century American economy.

It was a Republican idea then. Again, a little bit different not a government, free government subside. But can you not go down here and maybe say again, this is where we get no s, no, no, Mr. President or well, the ideas are well intentioned, but we disagree with the policy, and let's talk.

That is the challenge of Washington. If he does not budge and they don't reach out, nothing gets done. To what Kevin said earlier, look, we can talk about it, and it started in the Clinton administration and got worse in the George W. Bush, and progressively worse in this administration to is the trust deficit.

They don't know each other or trust each other. On the way out of the hall, the president was briefly touching the Democrats on the way out and grabbed Senator Orrin Hatch by the hand and grabbed him by the elbow. He is the new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Dana interviewed Paul Ryan at the beginning. He is the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. If the president starts spending time with those two guys over the next few months and the Democrats, I'm not saying -- you know, the Democrats would go nuts if he starts cutting back to a deal. But if he starts spending more time with these guys, maybe --

NAVARRO: If the president starts spending more time with Congress, and we have been saying that for about five years.

KING: We have, and it is the blame on both sides that they have not tried to do more, and the president promised a different Washington and he has not deliver and spending time with them, and the staff says that the Republicans have not pushed it either.

NAVARRO: And by the way, if you talk with the Democrats in Congress, a lot of them will say they have no relationship ax and they don't like that White House, and the staff is very insular, and so it is not just a Republicans in Congress problem.

BORGER: If we go back to the trend line that we are talking about, the part of it is the knee jerk kind of Democrats tax and spend. This is a new entitlement program, free community college and how to pay for it? We don't have all of the details as you said, but the Republican reaction, OK, how does this happen?

That sounds terrific, just like free head start sounded terrific, and in the last State Of The Union was it? So there's a natural cynicism here that comes from life, and the fact that people have been paying for entitlements that a lot of people think that need to be reined in, and was not mentioned tonight.

COOPER: Michael, you look at the promises made in the last State Of The Union, a lot of them frankly just weren't lived up to. The accomplishments were not made on them. A year from now, we will be looking back and say the same thing? SMERCONISH: I think this was less of a State Of The Union to check the boxes, but put more in the narrative form so there is less accountability for it frankly. One reaction to the EKG if I might and that is the president will never do well with the base of the GOP, and that is a constant from now until he leaves office.

Last Friday night in San Diego, Governor Romney gave a speech and he said this is not going to be about the Obama record, we're going to be forward looking and as I heard those words, I said, no, what placates the base of the GOP is to go after Obama.

And so the message for 2016 among these Republican candidates I still think will be to demonize the president in the face of the economic matrix that have gotten a heck of a lot better for the country.

COOPER: Can the Republicans still do that if the economy continues to get better?

NAVARRO: Well, there are some things that are going to be disagreeing with President Obama, but a lot of the Republicans who are potential 2016 candidates talk about poverty, talk about equal opportunity.

And if you look at the responses seeing from the Republicans tonight, that is what they are talking about, prison reform, so I think you are hearing a different Republican Party that's not going to cede an inch on issues or on demographics, and is going to try to broaden the tent.

BEGALA: They have had literally from day one a policy of massive resistance. On day one, Robert Drapper wrote about this in his book, the group of Republicans, 15 leader Republicans including Kevin McCarthy. He is now the number two man in the House.

They met in a Washington restaurant on the night of the president's first inaugural and they agreed to oppose everything he did. So when he proposed Mitt Romney's health care bill, they opposed it. When he proposed George W. Bush's immigration bill, they opposed it anyway.

When he proposed John McCain's cap and trade bill, they opposed it anyway and there is nothing --

MADDEN: And so in 2014, the president first did was to describe the veto strategy was, and it goes both ways.

FINNEY: And the first thing that the Republicans did was to start with the social agenda.


MADDEN: There is a huge element there where they are having a hard time, and talking past each other, and much more rhetoric and not enough emphasis put on the trying to make progress.

COOPER: Paul, you are saying it is not fair to say both sides.

BEGALA: Of course, it is both sides. The president has bad relations on the Hill. It is true with the Democrats as well. COOPER: Is that just a personal thing --

BEGALA: He is not good at it. It is true.

COOPER: He is no Bill Clinton.

BEGALA: Well, if he were here, he would say if I were LBJ, it would not work, because I don't have anyone with whom to engage. My point is this, there are three central proposals of the Obama presidency all came from Republicans, and he has the midas touch in reverse. He has the Marxist touch, anything he touches goes in reverse.

FINNEY: It is fact and as Paul said, from day one. I mean, you know, Mitch McConnell has bragged about that the whole agenda is to make him a one-term president, and block everything, and that is the way to start.

COOPER: You don't believe it is true?

MADDEN: No, there are elements of this gridlock on Capitol Hill that both sides contribute to. Michael makes a good point. The Republicans that are going out there with this muscle memory out there right now the define the agenda by opposing Obama, we have to move past that and have someone to build a vision if they take the office on January 2017 and reverse engineer from that moment back.

COOPER: And does it help the presidential candidate in 2016 help if they accomplished over the next year.

FINNEY: It depends on the --

COOPER: If there is a negotiation with President Obama, if there is compromise, does that help or hurt the branding?

FINNEY: I actually it helps because it will help the brand of the GOP candidates in the last elections. The branding of the parties can overcome that in their own message. I want to go back to something that Paul touched on.

This idea that, Ana touched on, to too, and the idea that the talking points, that Mitt Romney discovered the 47 percent and the poor, and he said that I don't have to worry about the poor, and just because we are hearing Republicans talk about these things.

I think what is more important is whether or not Paul is exactly right if they were willing to compromise on some of the things and make it seem as though they were going to move on these things it would be more powerful. There is a mistrust of the American people.


NAVARRO: What they are saying is that there needs to be an equal opportunity for everybody to rise and that doesn't necessary come from taxing the rich and creating a class warfare.

COOPER: The Republicans candidates be talking about the poor and when they do start to talk about the poor, you criticize them, too. And shouldn't any candidate be talking about the poor with grubby hands?

BEGALA: Well, Mitt Romney said that he can't make them take responsibility for their own lives. That is what he said in that 47 percent --

COOPER: Gloria?

BORGER: Well, can we just talk about this self-interest that is involved here. These people don't work together just because they like each other or like the president or don't like the president. They do what is in their own self-interest.

When you have a public that is growing less pessimistic, it helps every politician, because they all hate Washington. If they have reason for optimism, they may look better at you, and that is why they may find some areas to agree on.


KING: And quickly their own self-interest going into 2016, yes, it's a presidential year. Mitch McConnell loves his job and he wants to keep it. And Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, these Senate seats are up in blue states --

COOPER: We are standing by for the first results from CNN's instant poll from people who watched the president's speech, do they think he is taking the country in the right or wrong direction. It's a telephone poll, we will find out.

Plus how the president's speech may influence the next race for the White House. We will talk to two potential presidential candidates and what got them riled up ahead.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: My only agenda for the next two years is the same one that I had when I swore an oath on the steps of this capitol. To do what I believe is best for America.



BLITZER: We have the first results of the CNN instant poll of Americans who actually watched the president's speech tonight. Take a look at this, 51 percent said they had a very positive view of the speech, 30 percent were somewhat positive and 18 percent had a negative take on the president's remarks.

The president got a more positive reception this year than he did last year, more on par with his speeches in 2013 and 2011 and he got a far more favorable response than George W. Bush got during his State Of The Union address in 2007, six years into his presidency.

But remember this, this poll does not reflect the views of all Americans, only those who watched the speech. That is a group that is more likely to include a lot more Democrats than the population as a whole.

Democrats tend to watch a Democratic president just as Republicans would watch a Republican president. What's your reaction?

TAPPER: Well, it doesn't surprise me that a lot of presumably Democrats supporters of the president would find a lot to like in the speech. There was the recollection of who he was back in 2004 and why he was so appealing to so many Americans.

And lot of proposals that are not surprisingly popular on the left including free community college, and tax cuts for the middle class.

BLITZER: So clearly a lot of Democrats loved what they heard from the president. Tonight, the president also challenged members of the new Republicans-controlled Congress to work with him knowing full well they are ready and eager to stand in his way regardless of the consequences he outlined tonight. Listen to some of the key moments of the president's speech.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Tonight, I want to focus less on a checklist of the proposals and focus more on the values at stake in the issues before us. New sanctions passed by this Congress at this moment in time will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.

Alienating America from its allies, and making it harder to maintain sanction, and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again, it doesn't make sense and that is why I will veto any new sanctions aimed at this.

And I urged this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks. That should be a bipartisan effort. If we don't act, we leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.

We've done more than ever to combat climate change from the way we produce energy to the way we use it. And that's why I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.

We can't put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street or refighting past battles on immigration when we've got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it.

If you truly believe you can work full time and support a family on $15,000 a year. Try it. So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us can be better reflect America's hopes. Imagine if we did something different.

I ask you to join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope that you will at least work with me where you do agree.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: We are joined by two possible presidential contenders, the retired Johns Hopkins University neurosurgeon and best-selling author, Ben Carson, who is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination.

And Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, he is an independent, but he might run as a Democratic presidential nominee. Thank you both for joining me. Dr. Carson, is there anything that you heard from president tonight that you loved?

BEN CARSON: Well, there were many things that he said that I and many people on the conservative side would agree with.

BLITZER: Like what?

CARSON: For instance, some of the trade promotions. I think that education. We are all in favor of good education. The concept of the equal wages for men and women, I am glad to hear him say all of these things, because the women in the White House should be delighted, because they know that they are getting a raise tomorrow.

The returns on investment by investing in people are things that the conservatives love, but the real question is how do we get there. I love it when he talks about the fair taxes. I have been talking about that for a long, long time, and the question is what do you consider fair taxes?

These bad people over there, and we take their money and give it to the good people over here or is fair taxation proportionality?

BLITZER: You opposed any increase in taxes on the wealthy?

CARSON: Not necessarily because here's the way I would do it. I would make it proportional and eliminate all of the loopholes. Right now, the people who can afford the fancy lawyers and accountants do not pay their fair share.

BLITZER: Senator Sanders, what do you think?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Of the speech in general?

BLITZER: No, what do you think about this new class warfare debate that clearly the president is putting forward in a very progressive or liberal --

SANDERS: Well, we have had class warfare in the country for many, many years. The wealthier people, and the large corporations have been at war with the middle-class families, and they have been shutting down and shipping out the jobs to China and resisting the efforts to form union.

They have worked with the lobbyists here in Washington and Wall Street and corporate America to make sure that the wealthiest people and the largest corporations enjoy obscene loopholes and tax break, and we have a situation now, Wolf, where since the Wall Street crash 95 percent of all income in the country goes to the top 1 percent. We have a situation are where the top 1/10 of 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, and more Americans see this country evolving into the oligarchy where the billionaires have unbelievable power while the middle-class continues to disappear.

CARSON: But part of that is because of some of the policies that we have had in place for a while. And I'm, you know, blaming this on one party or another. I'm talking about policy issues here. We have artificially suppressed the interest rates.

And what are the implications of that? People who used to work Mr. Joe at the corner store or the factory put 5 percent of the money in the bank for 10 or 30 years to have the money accumulate so they could retire. Banks had incentive to make loans to ordinary people. What incentive do they have now to do that?

TAPPER: Let's talk about the economy, Dr. Carson, because I want to know the president seeming to have some stride in the step when it comes to the fact that the economy is better than it was. Unemployment was under 6 percent. It was at 10 percent at one point. The Dow Jones at 17,000 and the GDP has increased significantly.

CARSON: And let me talk about that.

TAPPER: Do you give President Obama credit for the economy having improved so much?

CARSON: Well, first of all, you say, what employment is down to. But I am sure that you can recognize that you can make that number anything that you want. The one that is very difficult to manipulate is the other one that is looking at the proportion of people who can actually work and the ones who are working, called the labor force participation rate.

TAPPER: What do you think of that, Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: Look, number one, in no doubt that the economy is much, much better than when Bush left office. But here is the point, official unemployment which is what the president talked about is different number than real unemployment.

If you include the people who gave up looking for work and part-time, and real unemployment is 11 percent, and youth is 18 percent, and the African-American youth unemployment is over 25 percent.

So yes, we are better than where we were six years ago, no question, but anybody who thinks that the economy today is where it should be for working people is terribly mistaken.

TAPPER: Sounds like there is an agreement here at this table.

CARSON: There is agreement and this is what we need. We need to be truthful and not throwing out the numbers that make our side look good. That is what will solve problems.

SANDERS: And let me throw in and I trust that you will not deny, but it is far better than when Bush left office.

CARSON: Yes, it has improved.

BLITZER: It was pretty awful at that point. Remember that there was a great recession going on. I want to let you guys go, but quickly, are you running for the Democratic presidential nomination?

SANDERS: I am giving thought to running, but I have not made that final decision.

BLITZER: Are you running for the Republican presidential nomination?

CARSON: Just ditto what he said.

TAPPER: A lot of agreement here.

BLITZER: Dr. Ben Carson, thank you for joining us, and Senator Sanders, you as well. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. I'm wondering from our panel here. In terms of the race for 2016, does tonight really change anything one way or another or set up anything differently?

BEGALA: Well, certainly from Hillary Clinton's perspective, and she is 75 percent among the Democrats in the polls this week, and clearly if she should run the front-runner, but it is easier for her, because to the extent that there is a lot of challenge coming from the populist left.

The president embraces the populist left in that agenda, and so does Hillary she tweeted out in praise of the speech, the president has tweeted out in support of the praise for all, and fair shot and fair share.

So it allows her to embrace that in support of the president, and nice agenda for her to run on if the Republicans will help her to kill the whole thing, this is an agenda that she can run on. Please block everything.

COOPER: Ana, do you see this setting up in the middle?

NAVARRO: Well, it does not change anything. No Republican going to be stopping of running or start thinking of running because of the speech today. As far as Hillary Clinton embracing the left, I don't know what to say about that, because she is so busy embracing Wall Street. And I am not sure how much time she has to embrace anything else, but I think that if President Obama's numbers improve and keep improving he may just get invited to the Democratic convention.

COOPER: From the White House perspective, Karen, how much about the speech was about setting up the Democrats for 2016?

FINNEY: Well, the part of this was about the message and setting the table and contrast, and here is what we are for, building from the middle-class out, we've heard that from this president and this White House for a very long time. That is I agree with Paul as a former Hillary Clinton staffer, a message that works for her in 2016 or frankly any Democrat in 2016, and I think from the White House perspective again going to this issue of legacy if that's part of what we are talking about at the end of the legacy that this is a guy who tried to push for the middle-class. That's also a win for them.

NAVARRO: You guys are overdosing on Hillary Kool-Aid if you think that Barack Obama wrote this speech thinking about Hillary Clinton.

FINNEY: I think what we're saying, though, is not that. We're saying it doesn't hurt. It could help.

MADDEN: It has more to do with the leveraging positioning for his last two years and I think --

COOPER: Leveraging in negotiations.

MADDEN: Right. And I think State of the Unions always -- they alter the atmospherics, but where they will be re-shaping the debate six months from now, we have no idea.

COOPER: And do they alter the atmospherics for long? Is the clock clicking on the debate for long?

MADDEN: They don't and I think ultimately it's still has to be a follow up. That's the hard part, right. You can give a speech for 45 minutes tonight, but whether or not the president and the team are ready to go up to Capitol Hill and start knocking on doors and really sit with Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan and sit with Wideman and others who are going to be crafting the big pieces of legislation to the where there is a potential or the compromise, that is the big test. The 45 minutes tonight will change the atmospherics.

COOPER: How much of this also is the president trying to set his legacy?

KING: Part of it, he just got his butt kicked in an election, so he can sit in the corner and sulk, but no, he comes out, and he is a competitor. And that is why Mitt Romney is back on the scene. He is a proud guy who wants to try again.

And so this president could have gone up and sulk, remember, Bill Clinton after 1994 I am relevant press conference. He was sulking then, and then he came out of it and went back to being Bill Clinton. This president wants to be relevant and fight.

But the question is where is the climate in a few months? There is a post-World War II high Republican House majority. There are 31 Republican governors. The president did not change any of the math tonight. He can't pass a bill, but they can't either, because they don't have 60 in the Senate.

So the question is if you want to get it done, they have to do it together. One last point about 2016, his standing does matter. The last time in history a two-term party kept the White House was George H.W. Bush because RONALD REAGAN was in good standing, and it helped George H.W. Bush in that election.

BEGALA: Obama carried every single state where Bush was below. Obama had a good campaign, but Bush handed it to any Democrat campaign.

BORGER: Well, if you're a popular president like if Barack Obama is popular, Hillary Clinton could lose, but if he is unpopular, it's just not likely that she would win.

SMERCONISH: This CNN data I think proves that it was a very effective speech. I think your numbers were 51 percent very favorably disposed, 30 percent somewhat favorably disposed. It was hard to oppose the speech because it did not offer a lot of detail.

When the detail is offered in the ensuing weeks, I think things will change. Here's what the country is going to be left with, the new Oxfam data suggests that by next year, 1 percent control more wealth than the remaining 99 percent.

And the president has put forward a proposal to alter the tax strategy in the country. It is not all about taxes, because around the globe, 200 difference tax systems and income inequality is a worldwide phenomenon.

What is the solution to technological advances and globalizations, and Tom Friedman, the world is flat, and I don't know, and I don't know if any of these candidates have put forward that kind of an idea.

COOPER: We got to take a break and look at the poll from the Americans that watched the speech. He seemed emboldened and certainly. Were viewers impressed? We are crunching the numbers right now. Those are straight ahead.


BLITZER: We have more results of the instant poll of the Americans who actually watched the president's speech tonight, did he sell the policies, and the answer appears to be yes.

Heading into the night, 57 percent of the people said that the policies are moving the country in the right direction. But after the speech, 72 percent of the people who watched the president's remarks said that he is putting the country on the right track.

He also seemed to win over some of the opponents. Right now, fewer speech watchers are saying that his policies are moving the country in the wrong direction than before he spoke tonight.

Remember this poll is only the people who watched the speech, and more Democrats tend to tune in to see a Democratic president just as more Republicans will tune in when there is a Republican president. But these numbers are still interesting.

TAPPER: Well, they are interesting. They also I think reflect one of the realities of this, which is A, President Obama gave a very optimistic, positive speech and reminded people of why they elected him twice to be president and invoking the 2004 speech about wanting to unite the country, no red states or blue states, just the United States.

And the other thing is as they say here in the town the devil is in the details. It's very nice and fine to say that community college should be free, but it is another thing to say that community college is free, and nothing in the life is free.

None of that was in the speech, so we don't know how he intends to pay for it, and maybe when we do, those numbers may go down a little bit the people are affected adversely and some people are talking about how the president wants to remove the tax credit or elimination of the taxes for savings account for education, and some middle-class voters may be affected by that.

BLITZER: A lot that is going to be the devil in the details. I should say that. Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Thank you, Wolf. One of the most interesting moments tonight happened behind the president while he was speaking. Look at House Speaker Boehner and Vice President Biden.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: That is why this Congress needs to pass a law to make sure that the woman is paid the same for a man for doing the same work.


COOPER: John King, it is always fascinating to watch the theater of who is standing and who is not standing, and do they feel awkward?

KING: And you have a divided government, and Boehner always have a grumpy face on at these things, and looking out, and sometimes he is looking at his members on the floor, and are we going to get up, and nah, we will stay, and then delayed. It is hard.

We talked about how hard it is to be the person who responds to any president. If you are the responder to the president, it's a tough job. And if you the vice president, your job is to jump up a lot, and if you are the speaker of another party, no.

NAVARRO: What is amazing is that he went a whole hour without crying.

COOPER: Is it hard for him to reach out the women and not stand. And I mean, policy differences on this issue, and so --

NAVARRO: I have to tell you they didn't like that moment, because the optics were not good, and when you saw the optics coming out of President Obama's face, it did not work.

MADDEN: No, look, look, these are pageantry, and the optics of the pageantry did not work in Speaker Boehner's favor and that is the presidency, and you say it, and everybody else has to react, and that is the bully pulpit.

BORGER: And Biden and Boehner are friends, and old friends, and you saw Biden pop up every minute he could, and Boehner just kind of stare out there trying not the look at Biden, and you know.

NAVARRO: Biden was on good behavior tonight because he goes a little weird with the facial stuff, but he was disciplined tonight.

FINNEY: And let's speak to the substance of what was happening there, because part of what we saw in the 2014 even and seeing it increasingly this idea that these so-called soft issues, the women's issues like child care and like equal pay are actually becoming mainstream economic issues.

That is how the president was trying the reframe them, and the families who have held on in the middle-class did so because of a second paycheck, and the wife's paycheck, and so for a lot of families, this is a mainstream economic issue, and that is what the president was speaking to.

The Republicans don't support it, and yes, the pageantry, and yes, the Biden is going to stand up at this point, and Speaker Boehner is not at this point, but there is also something to the message and the policy that they were speaking to, that does matter.

KING: And the difference going forward and the issues that you went through did not work as well for the Democrats as they thought so for 2014, and the next midterm is 2016, and it is a presidential year, so you have more of a Democratic coalition by history and we will see if it works out.

BEGALA: The Democrats have a demographic with doing poorly with the white folks, and the white folks that they tend to get are working women, and especially unmarried moms. And everybody believes in the policy, because it is good, but this is maternity leave, and equal pay, and minimum wage, those are the people that my party is targeting now.

COOPER: Coming up, there were a lot of hugs and kisses tonight, the standing ovations, the icy stares and they spoke volumes about the reactions in the room. We will talk about that when we come back in a moment.


COOPER: Finally tonight, some moments in the president's speech that goes beyond the boilerplate and policy to show the mood in the room. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The shadow of the crisis has passed in the State Of The Union is strong.

That is good news, people.

We need to set our sights higher than just making sure that government does not screw things up. This Congress needs to pass a law to make sure that a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.

It is 2015. It is time. If you truly believe that you can work full time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.

We need affordable high quality child care. It is not a nice to have, it is a must have.

I have no more campaigns to run. I know because I won both of them.

And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.

I know that there is bi bipartisan support in this chamber, and we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states. And we are the United States of America.


COOPER: A lot of people have waited a long time to get those hugs and kisses. What does the president do in terms of going on the road?

KING: It's a just fascinating moment I think he's going on a quick domestic trip and then overseas, but broadly, he was the big issue in the campaign, and his party lost badly and now hovering 50 percent in approval ratings.

He was clearly upbeat and optimistic tonight with energy. How relevant will be? Will this town change? I think -- a lot of people thought it was lame duck and forget can about him, but we should keep our eye on him for a while.

BORGER: I think that he is energized and he has a small window and maybe a year, but before the State Of The Union, he took it on the road, and he is going to take it on the road after the State Of The Union, and he has the public with him and he is 50 percent and that is high for him.

SMERCONISH: The president declares funk over, and it remains to be seen.

COOPER: Standby, we are about to replay President Obama's State Of The Union, in which he declares the funk over. Stick around. We'll be right back.