Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

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

By Newt Gingrich
January 27, 2014 -- Updated 2324 GMT (0724 HKT)
HIDE CAPTION
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
Quotes from State of the Union speeches
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
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.

Crunch time for President Obama
A peek behind the White House doors
Gingrich: Obama should learn from Christie

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.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

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

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1022 GMT (1822 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
ADVERTISEMENT