Friday, January 21, 2011

Today's State of the SOTU (Part II)

Here are a few more SOTU-related items we came across today that we thought were worth sharing.
  • At the apparent request of Esquire magazine, former Bush speechwriter and noted conservative pundit David Frum took the liberty of composing a full rough draft of the speech that he'd like President Obama to give next week. The men's mag sets up this rare act of partisan cross-pollination as a thought experiment -- "one conservative Republican's attempt to imagine what a liberal Democratic president should say if he wished in his next State of the Union to speak to the whole nation, adversaries as well as supporters, independents as well as partisans." It's well worth reading as a piece of speech craft either way.  You can find the full text here.
  • Speaking of former Bushies, Matt Dowd (who served as a pollster and strategist for George W.) did an analysis for ABC News looking at the likely impact of this year's State of the Union on President Obama's standing.  His conclusion, judging from the historical record: not much.  "An analysis of Gallup polling data over the last 35 years reveals that the State of the Union has little to no effect on presidential approval ratings." He goes on:
"President Clinton fared the best -- on average his approval rose a very modest 3 percentage points after his annual addresses. Surprisingly, all other presidents' approval ratings experienced slight declines on average. President George H. W. Bush suffered an average drop of 4 percentage points, while Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush saw average declines of a single point.   More remarkable: President Reagan, arguably the greatest communicator of the bunch, was unable to move public opinion through these widely-watched and covered speeches. President Obama's first State of the Union yielded a similar result. The polling data showed no impact, even though he often is lauded as a superb speaker.
  • It was announced today that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the conservative's go-to policy wonk of the moment, will deliver the Republican response to this year's SOTU.  He may want to read the story Politico posted today about the delicate challenge of following up -- and in many cases, mopping up -- after the President dominates the stage.  Our friend Jeff Shesol, a partner at West Wing Writers and a great writer of political history, sums up the fate that awaits Ryan best: “It’s a dog of a speech that diminishes almost anyone who gives it. It is apparently an honor, but it may feel to the speech-giver like some form of divine punishment.”

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