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Why Obama is playing a weak hand at State of the Union

By Newt Gingrich
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 2324 GMT (0724 HKT)
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Quotes from State of the Union speeches
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Newt Gingrich: President Obama facing tough headwinds as he gives State of the Union
  • He cites poll numbers showing Americans unhappy with direction and economy
  • Gingrich: Obama can excite the base with talk of income inequality
  • He says speech could boost Obama short term but will effect last?

Editor's note: Newt Gingrich is a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET weekdays, and author of a new book, "Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate." A former speaker of the House, he was a candidate in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama faces a real dilemma as he prepares for the State of the Union.

Most Americans believe our country is on the wrong track. A majority oppose Obamacare, for a variety of reasons.

Five years into his presidency, there is still a very weak economy, and 74% of Americans believe it feels like we are still in a recession.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

In addition, he has had a terrible year in which his major policy initiative failed spectacularly and his administration was caught misusing the IRS against political opponents, many Americans were startled to discover the scope of electronic government surveillance and details continued to trickle out about a number of other scandals.

And 53% recently indicated they believe the Obama administration is simply incompetent.

The President is now so unpopular in some parts of America that incumbent Democrats hide when he comes to their state.

The President recently tried moving to the left with rhetoric about income inequality to arouse his base.

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That strategy so alienated independents that the White House is now suggesting the State of the Union will focus on upward mobility and helping people achieve higher incomes through growth (core Republican themes) rather than on income inequality.

The Obama dilemma is simple.

He can move to the left and his base will be relatively happy (except on the NSA spying, where they may be the angriest opponents of the President's policies). But the base is too small to win the Senate races this fall.

He can move to the center, and the base may be bored and stay at home while the independents remain alienated by the economy and Obamacare.

Tuesday night, the President will be playing a weak hand.

He will get a standing ovation a number of times, of course, and the State of the Union is always a spectacle centered on the president. Most speeches like this have an impact for three days.

We will see if the President has found a formula that is more effective and lasting.

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Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Newt Gingrich.

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