Attempting to reverse sagging approval ratings, President Obama plans to continue his pointed pitch to members of Congress in his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday night -- that he will use his executive power to take action on his own to help reduce income inequality in the country.
White House communications aides have spent the past week saying Obama plans to hit this theme in the speech, and on Saturday they offered a bit more information.
Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, sent out an email Saturday to supporters saying Obama's message Tuesday night can be summed up in three words: “opportunity, action and optimism.”
He also promised that the president would lay out a set of “real, concrete, practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class and empower all who hope to join it.” In the days after the speech, Obama plans to hammer the message home with travel to Maryland, Pittsburgh, Pa., Milwaukee, Wis., and Nashville, Tenn.
“The core idea is as American as they come: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed,” Pfeiffer said in the email. “Your ability to get ahead should be based on your hard work and ambition and who you want to be, not just the raw circumstance of who you are when you're born.”
In the final few years of a second term, presidents lose influence and leverage with each passing month. Struggling to push back against that dynamic, Obama has dubbed 2014 “a year of action” and has repeatedly said he has a “pen and a phone” and will utilize both by using executive actions to sidestep congressional gridlock.
Still, Pfeiffer said Obama will “seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way.”
“But when American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress,” he wrote.
During and after the speech, Pfeiffer said, senior White House staff, himself included, will be online to answer as many questions from Americans as they can.