Colorado politicians differ on President Obama’s State of the Union speech and its impact
February 3, 2014
President Barack Obama's fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night drew mixed reaction from both sides of the aisle, while one Colorado political analyst said the president hit a home run with his speech.
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Obama's first part of the speech talked about working together with Congress and then he spent the rest of the speech talking about how he was going to work around Congress.
"While he said one thing, he talks about doing the exact opposite when it comes to following the Constitution requirement that Congress write the law," said Gardner in a telephone interview from Washington. "He gave a speech that I felt lacked some of the confidence of previous, and was very short on details. No big, bold policy issues. I think it is once again, a recognition that this country truly needs leadership and that's what we have done in the House to provide leadership on job creation, to provide leadership on reducing regulations so we can unleash small businesses and trying to find opportunities for energy development and job creation through projects like the Keystone Pipeline."
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a telephone call from Washington that he liked how Obama's speech set a real tone of opportunity and optimism.
"He made the point powerfully that opportunity is who we are, and I'm glad he focused on my No. 1 priority, which is creating good-paying jobs in our state of Colorado," Udall said. "You do that by focusing on some common-sense solutions like cutting red tape for small businesses and double down on the importance of job training. Finally, I loved the fact that he recommitted the passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. Weld County/Greeley area knows the importance of that. It would lift our economy, generate jobs and it's the right thing to do."
John Straayer, a Colorado political analyst and political science professor at Colorado State University, said Obama was at the top of his game, and that the speech was staged to go on the aggressive and not the defensive.
"I think he was relaxed, I think his speech was well prepared and he was unapologetic and aggressive. I think it was all in all very much a winner for him in terms of a speech, but you got to put that against the realities of the makeup in Washington and he doesn't control the House," Straayer said. "This was not a speech coming off from what I think he would even agree was a very difficult year with the rollout of Obamacare, with the difficulties of dealing with the Congress … no apologies."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper released a state after the speech that said: " 'Opportunity is who we are.' Those words from President Obama tonight hit the mark. Our country is defined by opportunity, by our immigrants and our new ideas, and by the pursuit of more jobs in a growing economy, the president's call for more high-tech manufacturing, energy independence and greater access to world-class education also resonate well in the West. We share the president's belief that when women succeed, the country — Colorado — succeeds. We join the president's optimism that through bipartisan action, and by keeping our focus on tomorrow, our country can continue moving forward."
Straayer said a speech doesn't change the numerical realities in the Congress, but Obama covered a variety of issues that were critical to his presidency during the 65-minute speech.
"You go right down the list, the middle-class problem, which is real. The growing not only income gap, but the wealth gap," Straayer said. "Problem with jobs and the need for more jobs training, where there is a mismatch between skills and job opportunities. The environment? He was on that. Immigration? He was on that. Education? He was on that. It was a progressive agenda presented forcefully and unapologetically. I think he hit a home run in terms of the speech and hitting all of the critical issues that he cares about."
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., released a statement that said the president identified a number of challenges that needed to be addressed.
"People across Colorado want us to focus on bipartisan solutions that will help grow the economy, get people back to work, and leave more opportunity to the next generation," Bennet said. "One area where we can make progress is immigration. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill to fix our broken immigration system and strengthen our economy. The House of Representatives should pass this bill so it can be signed into law. It's also time for both parties to work with one another to create a 21st century energy policy, update our antiquated tax code, and improve our system of public education. It was good to hear the push for respecting the roles that women play in the workforce through pay and flexibility for those who need to balance work with care for their families. It's past time we close these gaps."
Colorado Republican Committee Chairman Ryan Call released a statement saying: "Coloradans heard nothing new from the president tonight, except more empty promises. The fact is that after five years of President Obama and Sen. Mark Udall's failed leadership, millions of Americans are still out of work, over 335,000 Coloradans have lost their health care because of Obamacare and over 60 percent of Americans believe our nation is on the wrong track. Nothing has changed after the president's speech. Coloradans deserve better than President Obama, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall's failed leadership. Thankfully, Republicans like Congressmen Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton are working day-in and day-out for policies that will not only limit federal government intrusion in our lives, but that will create opportunities for every Coloradan to succeed."