Don't Expect Another Liberal Broadside in the State of the Union

White House aides say President Obama was taken aback by coverage of his inaugural address and doesn't want a similar reaction this time around.

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Reuters

Job One for President Obama in his State of the Union address will be to convince Americans that his top priority is their jobs.

White House officials tell me they feel stung by coverage of the inaugural address. Reporters highlighted the president's left-leaning stances on immigration, gun control, climate change, and gay and women's rights. Obama's aides argue that he devoted more inaugural address language to the economy, jobs, and the deficit than all other issues combined.

Still, the perception remains that Obama lost focus on the economy -- the top issue in the minds of most voters.

So look for an address Tuesday tilted heavily toward policies pledging action on joblessness, growing the economy and expanding the middle class, White House officials said Friday. Other issues will be discussed, aides said, but there will be no mistaking that Obama's paramount concern is the economy.

Though Obama's team would dismiss its significance, Democratic allies took notice of Quinnipiac University's new poll that showed Obama's approval rating dropping since his election, from a 53 percent approval rating in December to 46 percent.

One senior Democratic consultant with ties to both the White House and Capitol Hill said he's not surprised by the slip in polls for two reasons. First, independent voters might want Obama talking more about their jobs and the economy. Second, liberal Democrats are unhappy with reports about Obama's aggressive drone warfare.

President Obama lays out his second-term vision for America. See full coverage

"He needs to get back to jobs, jobs and middle-class jobs," the Democrat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from the White House.

Regardless of his approval ratings, there are limits to Obama's political capital, as Michael Hirsh explained in this week's National Journal. I have been questioning the limits of a presidential mandate since Election Day. But the White House is confident that Obama has the upper hand against a GOP that is significantly less popular than the Democratic Party, according to polls.

The key, Obama's aides say, will be making jobs Job One.

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Ron Fournier is editorial director of National Journal.

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