First Thoughts on the SOTU

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I thought this was a strong speech. Strong on a few different fronts. Biden got into it a few times with House Republicans which he and his advisors clearly wanted to happen. He also got some good applause lines and clippable moments where he called out things like Republicans killing the border bill. He hit a number of policy points where Biden’s policies are just much more popular than Republican ones. State of the Unions can play a big role because they allow a President to make a key point that maybe just hasn’t broken through before. Here everyone’s watching. So a President can force the matter. There are probably ten other boxes they checked more or less well.

But a political speech is only really good or bad judged against a specific, contextual need. Bill Clinton’s SOTUs were often plodding and, for political insiders, boring. But they usually accomplished his specific political goals. In this case, Democrats have been worried. Worried about the stakes of this election. Worried about the poll numbers. They’ve been worried about whether Biden has the energy and whatever else to really do this. Can he be vigorous? Can he show up and deliver? Does he have the energy to get this done? Answering that question in the affirmative was in many ways the first, second and third goal of this speech. And on that measure he did very well.

As he had the confidence to dwell on towards the end of the speech, Biden is an old man. He’s over 80 years old. But I think people who’ve had these doubts, Democrats who have been worried … I think they will see this speech and think, “Ok, I think we can do this.”

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