early and often

Nation Awaits Obama’s Prime-time Speech With Bated, Nervous Breath

The speech that President Obama will deliver before a joint session of Congress, and the American public, at 9 p.m. tonight, is not, officially, a State of the Union address — but it pretty much is. Obama has a lot to talk about, most notably and obviously the economy, and all the many horrible ways it is struggling, from the housing crisis to the banks to the stock market and the deficit. What will he say, what should he say, and how should he say it? These people have thoughts.

• Chuck Todd and friends say that Obama will lay out his domestic agenda, but when he “talks about health care, education, and energy, he’ll do so under the economic umbrella.” He’ll also “feel the need to calm the markets tonight.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Michael Scherer expects Obama to further differentiate himself from President Bush, boast about the accomplishments of the stimulus package, talk about the need for bi-partisanship, cover the state of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and take Bill Clinton’s advice by sounding more hopeful. [Time]

• Rich Lowry calls Obama’s task tonight “daunting,” as he’ll be attempting “to sell an ambitious liberal agenda while promising to cut the deficit; to reassure the market while acknowledging dire economic conditions; [and] to keep the populist wolves at bay while explaining the banking, housing and auto bailouts.” [NYP]

• William McGurn suggests that “tonight would be a good time for him to make a little room in his comments for the entrepreneurs and small-business owners,” a group that has “been largely absent from the president’s most important economic statements and speeches” even though they’re the ones that “create jobs and opportunity for the rest of us.” [WSJ]

• Gerald Seib says the “giant and unresolved question” hanging over the speech tonight is, “What’s the proper role for the government in today’s troubled economy?” It is also “the megaquestion of our time,” despite the fact that “neither the lawmakers the president will be addressing, nor the nation beyond them, have come close to consensus on an answer.” [WSJ]

• Rick Klein thinks Obama needs “to remind the public of why they went with this president at this time, and of all the things he still wants to do. (With the big assumption that any of us will have the money to do it.)” [Note/ABC News]

• Mark Silva calls the speech Obama’s “first major chance to make his best case that what his administration is doing will work.” For the president, “[v]oicing a sense of hope — a promise that the nation’s best days still lie ahead — will be critical to the speech of a president who, at the same time, is determined to confront the real hardship that many Americans are facing and government solutions for it.” [Swamp/Chicago Tribune]

• Ben Pershing makes an educated guess that Obama will “speak of the importance of bipartisanship,” telling Republicans that “he wants to hear their ideas too, and that the political ways of the past will no longer suffice in dealing with a potentially frightening future.” [Rundown/WP]

• Tom Brune lays out three goals for Obama’s speech: He has to provide a framework for how all the “moving parts” of his economic plan fit together; advance his agenda; and “offer some hope to rally the American people and his Democratic allies in Congress behind him, while reaching out to the opposition.” [Newsday]

• Jonathan Martin writes that Obama will “key in on education, health care, energy and reducing the budget deficit — and attempt to tie them together into a larger discussion about his vision for the economic growth of the country.” He’ll need to “rely on his oratorical skills” for this “considerable” task. [Politico]

Nation Awaits Obama’s Prime-time Speech With Bated, Nervous Breath