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Biden to Make His Case Tonight

The day has arrived: Joe Biden will deliver his second state of the union address tonight. It's his third address to a joint session of Congress overall, but the first such speech of each president's term is not considered a SOTU. Foreign readers must be so confused about the traditions of American politics. American readers too, for that matter.

Biden's address will take place against the backdrop of two rather important numbers. The first is the staggeringly good jobs report for January, which revealed that roughly half a million jobs were added in the previous month (capping a stellar overall year for jobs growth). The second is the ABC News/Washington Post poll from earlier this week that reports that 62% of Americans think Biden has accomplished "not very much" or "little or nothing" during his presidency.

The obvious "angle" here is: Will Biden's speech successfully be able to use the former (the jobs and other positive economic indicators) to try to improve upon the latter (the tepid response to his presidency)? You can see articles that take this basic theme here, here, here, and here, and this is hardly an exhaustive list.

If we may be so bold, we think this is a dumb question. Or, at least, it's a question that can be answered right now. And the answer is: "No, the SOTU isn't going to change Biden's polling numbers in any meaningful way." First of all, he's a capable speaker most of the time, but he's not dynamic or inspiring. Second, the SOTU is largely going to attract a politically dialed-in audience, and not the kind of folks who only vaguely know what Biden has done in the last 2 years. Third, and related to the second, SOTUs never produce any kind of polling bump, beyond a dead-cat bounce.

For us, then, the more interesting question is what the speech will reveal about Biden's relationship with House Republicans. Will he continue to play the role of bipartisan Joe, or will he hint at an iron fist approach? Probably the former, but with the debt ceiling on the horizon, you never know. And will the Republicans in the audience (including Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, who will be seated behind Biden) behave like grown-ups, or like small children? Maybe McCarthy will take a page from Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) book and visibly tear up his copy of the address. When she did it, we thought it was bold, but probably a shrewd bit of political theater. If McCarthy does it, we can tell you right now what we will write: "For God's sake, Kevin, come up with your own damn shtick as you try to kiss Donald Trump's posterior."

As we've noted a couple of times, the Republican response is going to be given by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR). We'll watch it, since we have a responsibility of sorts to do so, but her speech will be almost totally irrelevant. First, she may be a governor, but she is not in any meaningful way at the loci of power. Second, despite almost 2 years as White House Press Secretary, she's a poor public speaker—very twitchy and distracting. Finally, and most importantly, it's just going to be a recitation of the same tired talking points we've already heard a million times about the border, and Biden ruining the economy and yadda, yadda, yadda. We could write the speech ourselves, if we had an extra 10 seconds to kill today.

Not all networks have made clear their broadcast plans, but the SOTU and the response will be widely available, of course. Here's the list from last year; presumably this year's list will be very similar: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, NBC LX, PBS, Black News Channel, CNBC, CNN, CNNe, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, Newsmax and NewsNation. Truth be told, we didn't even know there was such a thing as the Black News Channel. Makes sense, though, as a counterpoint to the White News Channel. You know, the one that employs Tucker Carlson. (Z)

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