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Biden’s State of the Union speech changed minds on economy

Mar 18

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President Biden attempted to tackle a lot of different subjects in his annual State of the Union address on March 7, but among the most important of them was the state of the U.S. economy. The U.S. economy has achieved record-low unemployment, surprising GDP growth and the lowest inflation rate among all G7 major economies. Yet as conservative critics continue to argue the crisis of housing unaffordability and rising interest rates, many Americans have struggled with how they should feel about the complex economy as a whole.

Straight Arrow News contributor David Pakman reviews Biden’s speech and the results of a bipartisan CNN focus group that viewed it as well. Pakman argues that Biden made an effective argument about the positive outlook of the U.S. economy and that while elements of his speech could have been better, he certainly seems to have changed a number of minds. Pakman predicts Biden will win in November provided he can continue to communicate effectively about how well the economy is doing.

First of all, as a speech, Joe Biden’s speech was excellent. The criticisms were really about form. Some Republicans [were] so devastated by the fact that it worked to enlighten so many Americans about the state of the country, they resorted to alleging that Biden must have been on drugs and that’s how he got his energy, unable to really go after the substance of the speech. In terms of the substance, Joe Biden did a few different important things.

First of all, he effectively communicated that things are actually looking pretty good in the United States to a great degree. We know that most economic indicators look quite good, unemployment is low, inflation has come down, stock markets setting records seemingly all the time, GDP is doing well, wages are up, all of these different things. But public sentiment lags those indicators to a great degree. And one of the fascinating things was that CNN did a focus group before and after the speech. Before the speech, [viewers] in the low 40s believed the country was going in the right direction. After the speech, it went all the way up to the low 60s. That right there can win you an election in the sense that people vote based on how they perceive the country is doing.

And a lot of times when you ask people, “How are you doing?” They go, “I’m doing fine.” Then you say, “Well, how is the country doing?” They go, “Ehh it’s not going so well,” assuming that for other people, it’s not going well. And for some, of course, it’s not but overall, the economy is very solid. If you can move the percentage of people that think the country is going in the right direction from 42 to 62, that alone can win you reelection.

Joe Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address was exactly what he needed in this particular political environment and situation, it wasn’t perfect, but I will explain the good and the not so good. And then we will discuss what has happened since.

 

First of all, as a speech, Joe Biden’s speech was excellent. The criticisms were really about form. Some Republicans [were] so devastated by the fact that it worked to enlighten so many Americans about the state of the country, they resorted to alleging that Biden must have been on drugs and that’s how he got his energy, unable to really go after the substance of the speech. In terms of the substance, Joe Biden did a few different important things.

 

First of all, he effectively communicated that things are actually looking pretty good in the United States to a great degree. We know that most economic indicators look quite good, unemployment is low, inflation has come down, stock markets setting records seemingly all the time, GDP is doing well, wages are up, all of these different things. But public sentiment lags those indicators to a great degree. And one of the fascinating things was that CNN did a focus group before and after the speech. Before the speech, [viewers] in the low 40s believed the country was going in the right direction. After the speech, it went all the way up to the low 60s. That right there can win you an election in the sense that people vote based on how they perceive the country is doing.

 

And a lot of times when you ask people, How are you doing? They go, I’m doing fine. Then you say, well, how is the country doing? They go and it’s not going so well, assuming that for other people, it’s not going well. And for some, of course, it’s not. But overall, the economy is very solid.

 

If you can move the percentage of people that think the country is going in the right direction from 42 to 62, that alone can win you reelection.

 

Secondly, there was this moment where Joe Biden, in this kind of back and forth with Republicans in the crowd, use the term illegals to describe undocumented immigrants. Now that’s a term that Republicans are perfectly happy to use. We on the left, often find it to be a dehumanizing term and prefer undocumented immigrants. For example, Joe Biden completely took responsibility for that, in an interview in the weekend after the State of the Union with Jonathan Capehart. He said I shouldn’t use that term undocumented is what I’m talking about. But here’s the thing. My policy is not one of demonizing immigrants and my predecessor Trump’s was, I think that was exactly the right thing for Joe Biden to do just to say, Oh, I said the wrong word. But what matters is policy. And that’s what gets us to this next issue, which is anger with Joe Biden, over the way that he has been to say, handling the Israeli Gaza war is wrong, because it’s not his to handle he’s the President of the United States. But there are people, including some in my audience, who aren’t pleased with the perspective that the Biden administration has had, with regard to Israel’s actions in Gaza. One of the things that Joe Biden did both in the State of the Union speech and since is say, people are right to be upset about what’s going on there. People are right to want a ceasefire. I want a ceasefire, at least for six weeks and allow to get the hostages out, etcetera. You know, and I know and Biden knows that Hamas has said, We’re never going to stop trying to do more October 7 attacks. So can you even really have a durable ceasefire with Hamas? No. But he’s adopting the language and saying, I want the hostilities to stop. People have a right to be upset. And this is exactly the right balance of conciliatory language, and sort of reasonable policy that I think a lot of voters are looking for. So doing himself favors there as well. Thirdly, and maybe Lastly, or fourthly, I don’t know what number we’re up to. Biden was also helped significantly, by the absolutely absurd response, absurd response from Republican senator Katie Britt, who delivered it out almost like a performance out of The Handmaid’s Tale, including in her response to the Biden State of the Union, an anecdote from long before Biden was even President about someone who was sexually trafficked has nothing to do with Joe Biden, nothing. And she delivered it with a voice that seemed more suited for a mediocre high school play than an actual political speech. And she since has admitted in interviews on Fox News. Yeah, it did happen like 20 years ago, the thing that she was referring to, and so that also was a great contrast for Joe Biden, which allowed the country to see here’s what Biden’s offering. And here’s what Republicans are offering and they seem to be completely out of their minds, and even many Republicans seeing the response and saying This is the best we could do this isn’t looking so good so State of the Union addresses they only ever move the needle a little bit to the extent that they do very useful to Joe Biden if you see it differently let me know.

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