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Wake Up To Politics - January 13, 2016

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016
19 Days until the Iowa Caucuses
300 Days Until Election Day 2016 I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
To send me questions, comments, tips, new subscribers, and more: email me at wakeuptopolitics@gmail.com. To learn more about WUTP and subscribe, visit the site: wakeuptopolitics.com, or like me on Twitter and Facebook. More ways to engage with WUTP at the bottom.    State of the Union 2016

  • President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address Tuesday, choosing to forego a laundry list of specific policy requests, and instead focusing on “four big questions that we as a country have to answer”:
  • “First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?”
  • “Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?”
  • “Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?”
  • “And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”
  • Obama began his address by noting that it was an election year (“I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa,” he joked), but that he also had plans for change to “surprise the cynics again,” listing issues like criminal justice reform, combatting prescription drug abuse, coding education, personalizing medical treatment, immigration, gun violence, equal pay, paid live, and increasing the minimum wage.
  • Once he had allowed Democrats to applaud each one of those issues, the President quickly turned to “the next five years, ten years, and beyond.”
  • “I want to focus on the future,” he said, speaking of the “extraordinary change…reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world.”
  • Over the course of the speech, President Obama also allowed himself small victory laps, frequently mentioning the improved state of the union from when he took office:
  • “We recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations…we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector…we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and…we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.”
  • “Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far [because of the Affordable Care Act]. Health care inflation has slowed. And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.”
  • “We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online. We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.”
  • “Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.”
  • Without admitting the economy is declining (“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction”), the President spoke of area both parties could agree on to improve the economy further: from education (universal pre-K, STEM education, increasing the quality and amount of teachers) to workplace benefits (“After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber”), strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and poverty (mentioning Speaker Ryan, who sat behind him, for his efforts on the issue).
  • While doing so, Obama also dropped in some specific proposals, which were purposely few and far between in his address. He spoke on college affordability:
  • “We have to make college affordable for every American. Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red…Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.”
  • The President also addressed economic security:
  • “Say a hardworking American loses his job — we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him."
  • And while Obama mostly stayed optimistic, he also spoke about “making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations,” joking, “food stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did,” and “immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms”.
  • The President also employed the American “spirit of discovery” in making the case that “with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer,” hinting at a new effort to do so, with his Vice President (who lost a son to cancer last year) in the lead:
  • “Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting [Vice President] Joe [Biden] in charge of Mission Control.”
  • Turning to foreign policy, Obama addressed the need to “remake” the international system, stressing that, “priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks,” speaking at length about ISIL: what they are doing, how they are recruiting, and propaganda they are spreading.
  • Obama took after Republicans in Congress and the presidential race when discussing instability in the world, and the solutions needed to fix it:
  • “The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.”
  • “We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now.”
  • “If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done,” the President challenged, “ask Osama bin Laden.”
  • Of course, President Obama still had a few requests of Congress, from authorizing the use of military force against ISIL to approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, lifting the embargo on Cuba to fund malaria research.
  • Finally, Obama opened up about one of his few regrets about his presidential tenure:
  • “That the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
  • The President spoke about how to “fix our politics” and improve democracy, by ending gerrymandering, reforming campaign finance, and making it easier to vote, asking for help from the American people in forcing change on those fronts:
  • “But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”
  • Finally, noting that “our brand of democracy is hard,” Obama spoke of hard-working citizens (noting that he’d be there soon – “A year from now… I’ll be right there with you): “the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future”.
  • “That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you,” the President said.
  • “That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.”

White House Watch

  • The President’s Schedule As is traditional, President Obama now leaves for his post-State of the Union tour, to listen to the ideas of American citizens and push his own.
  • At 11:55am Eastern Time, Obama will depart the White House, arriving in Omaha, Nebraska at 2pm Central Time.
  • At 2:30pm, the President will hold a living room discussion with a family at a private residence in Omaha to “engage with Americans about the real progress the American people have made to move our country forward, and how we can continue taking action to address the challenges and opportunities in the years ahead,” according to the White House.
  • At 4:15pm, Obama will speak at the University of Nebraska Omaha, before departing at 5:20pm, arriving at his next stop, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at 7:25pm Central Time.

2016 Central

  • Whiteboard Wednesday Every week, I provide an update on presidential polling via my whiteboard. This week’s edition of Whiteboard Wednesday is below:

  • To arrive at the percentages in brown ink, I took the average of every national poll that has been released this week. The red or blue ink shows the change in that number from their percentage the week before (in this case, since the last whiteboard I did, before winter break).
  • On the GOP side, there really is minimal changes. Trump remains on top, commanding over a third of the Republican electorate. Just two candidates see significant changes in their numbers: Ted Cruz, who continues to rise; and Ben Carson, who continues to drop.
  • Also in that top tier is Marco Rubio, who holds on to his double-digits at third place.
  • The bottom half of the field, led by Bush and Christie, see basically no difference in their numbers from the previous whiteboard, with the largest change half of 1%. Chris Christie does not move at all in either direction.
  • On the Democratic side, there is a clear shift in momentum, with Bernie Sanders gaining 5% of the vote – and Hillary Clinton losing as much. This results in a much closer race between the two than we have ever seen, with Clinton’s lead (once gargantuan) shrinking to 8.6% - still comfortable, but shocking when you consider how large it has been previously, and how inevitable Clinton was once seen.
  • Martin O’Malley drops even more, to a mere 2.3%.

Capitol Hill News

  • Senate: Today The Senate holds a single vote today: on confirmation of Wilhelmina Marie Wright to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Minnesota.
  • House: Today The House will vote on passage of a Senate-passed resolution blocking the EPA’s “Water of the United States” rule, which redefines the Clean Water Act to change which waterways are under federal juris diction, and the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act, which prohibits the President from lifting sanctions on Iranian financial institutions until he certifies they have no connection with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, terrorist activities, or Iran’s missile program.
  • Congress to Recess as GOP Retreats Both houses of Congress will recess today, for one week in the Senate and for two in the House, as congressional Republicans hold a joint retreat.
  • Today, activities at the two-day retreat will include an address by Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch, a presentation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, and a talk on messaging from Sen. John Thune and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
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For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation, the Political Junkie podcast, and St. Louis Public Radio; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki, and read about Gabe in Politico, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light