Advice To SOTU Watchers

by Patrick Appel

Nate Silver recommends ignoring moments "likely to have any impact on perceptions of Mr. Obama in the near term" but instead to focus on sections that "might hint at the White House’s thinking on some of the more difficult strategic choices it faces over the next 6 to 9 months." Among the topics Silver will be listening for:

How Mr. Obama will try to maneuver against the G.O.P. on the issue on which he might be most vulnerable: the federal budget deficit. Popular approval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the deficit is just 38 percent, according to a CNN poll released yesterday. Major changes to Social Security appear to be off the table although, considering how unpopular they would be, it is hard to know whether the White House was seriously considering any in the first place. But the White House will need to have some sort of response to Republicans ready on the deficit, particularly since a budget hawk, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is set to deliver the Republican rebuttal.