February 12, 2013

President Obama’s State of the Union speech: Bah, humbug. What could he possibly say that we haven’t already heard? How can the president take the initiative while saying the same old thing?

What will be different after tonight’s State of the Union address? Nothing. What will we know after the speech that we don’t know now? Very little. The president is nothing if not predictable. I don’t mean it won’t be a fine speech. It will be well-delivered and include a measure of eloquence that will showcase the president’s talents. And of course, it will get great reviews from many of the usual suspects on the left.

The problem is he just doesn’t have much new to tell us. We know where he stands and we know that he can govern only through regulation. Just about the only drama in the speech will be how forthright he is about his inability to work with Congress to pass anything. It will be interesting to see if the president will be in campaign mode and will taunt Congress, or if he is evolving into a leader who knows his time is limited and his legacy is partially dependent on the audience sitting in front of him.

The fact is, most State of the Union speeches have a half-life. Tonight’s shouldn’t be any different. I will personally be interested to see how artfully the president is able to wrap his aggressive left-wing agenda into a faux job-growth agenda. It is impossible to reconcile his anti-growth government activism with any meaningful job growth policies, but it will be interesting to watch a skilled orator like Obama try.

I suspect the president will talk a lot about jobs. It is too bad the Republican National Committee cannot sponsor a crawler along the bottom of the screen reminding everyone that everything the president says about economic growth and job creation is wrong or deceitful.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been chosen to give the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) faces the challenge of high expectations in his Republican response to the president. Rubio has a political Midas touch right now, so he can only hurt himself if he tries to do too much. I’ve been involved in the planning of a few GOP State of the Union responses over the years and I’ve learned that less is more. Rubio should stick to the basics; any attempt to be creative or “different” is fraught with peril and won’t work. It is best to look at the camera and be serious, brief and poised. Have good lighting and makeup. That’s about it.

Rubio should deliver remarks that are directed at the pundits, a few opinion-leader activists and the media. The reality is that a lot more people will see the analysis of the speech than will see the speech itself. Good reviews from the talking heads and opinion writers will be important for Rubio. It is delusional to think the general public or rank-and-file voters will notice this speech unless something goes terribly wrong. Don’t be adventurous; cleverness kills!

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.