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State Of The Union Is Not Expected To Generate Big TV Ratings

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State Of The Union Is Not Expected To Generate Big TV Ratings

Politics

State Of The Union Is Not Expected To Generate Big TV Ratings

State Of The Union Is Not Expected To Generate Big TV Ratings

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462754311/462754312" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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President Obama hopes to use the speech to frame his last year in office and the 2016 campaign. The political spotlight, however, is increasingly shifting to the people running to replace him.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, sometime this evening, President Obama will declare the state of the union strong. Odds are the television ratings will not be. But this is still a chance for the president to make his case, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The White House will try to offset the shrinking television audience for tonight's speech by using every tool in its digital toolkit - Twitter, YouTube, even Snapchat. Obama spent much of the weekend honing the message of tonight's speech. And he's expected to keep polishing right up to the last minute.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "THE PRESIDENT PREVIEWS HIS LAST STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS")

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's my last one. And as I'm writing, I keep thinking about the road that we've traveled together these past seven years - the people I've met, the stories that you've shared, the remarkable things you've done to make change happen.

HORSLEY: Obama plans to set an optimistic tone, talking about the five-and-a-half million jobs added in the last two years and the more-than-17 million people who got health insurance. That's in sharp contrast to the picture painted by Republican presidential candidates. On NBC's "Meet the Press," White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough accused Republicans of, quote, "running down America."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

DENNIS MCDONOUGH: I don't really get it. What I see is an America that's surging - 292,000 new jobs just the other day, the fastest reduction in unemployment in more than three decades over the last two years, and the biggest job growth in two years since the 1990s, when there also happened to be a Democrat in the White House.

HORSLEY: GOP candidate Donald Trump appeared on the same program and offered a very different view.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

DONALD TRUMP: Our economy is doing horribly. And you take a look at that jobs report. The jobs report is fiction. You have 60, 70, 80 million people out there that want to work that aren't getting jobs.

HORSLEY: Republicans are even more critical of Obama's handling of foreign policy, where the president typically gets his lowest marks in public opinion polls. On the stump, Jeb Bush argues that disapproval should also extend to Obama's would-be successor, Hillary Clinton.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEB BUSH: Who can seriously argue that America and our friends are safer today than in 2009, when the president and Secretary Clinton - the storied team of rivals - took office, so eager to be the history-makers, they failed to be the peacemakers.

HORSLEY: With Republicans controlling both chambers in Congress, the White House sees only a few chances for legislative movement this year - mostly on criminal justice reform and ratification of the Asia-Pacific trade deal. Instead of the usual laundry list of programs he wants passed, Obama plans to stress what he sees as the big challenges facing the country, and the big opportunity to confront those challenges together.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "THE PRESIDENT PREVIEWS HIS LAST STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS")

OBAMA: That's what makes America great - our capacity to change for the better; our ability to come together as one American family and pull ourselves closer to the America we believe in.

HORSLEY: Watching the speech from the First Lady's box will be two people who supported Obama in his first White House bid seven years ago - a hotel security director and Vietnam veteran whose military patch Obama carried throughout the campaign, and the South Carolina County Councilwoman who coined what became his unofficial slogan - fired up, ready to go. These two are living reminders of the grassroots enthusiasm that fueled Obama's unlikely rise to the White House. In recalling that first campaign, though, they also may illustrate how much the fire has burned down as Obama gets ready to go in just over a year. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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