By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 1/25/2011 10:05:07 AM ET 2011-01-25T15:05:07

After a self-admitted "shellacking" of President Obama's party in the last election, the annual State of the Union address arrives at another moment of change in Washington. When the president addresses the nation Tuesday night, he will begin to provide more than a glimpse into his ability — and willingness — to change course in order to meet new political realities.  

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Since last November’s election in which Democrats lost 63 House seats, the biggest midterm loss for either party since 1938, the president has signaled a strategic shift with the hiring of former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley as chief of staff and General Electric chairman Jeff Immelt as his chief outside adviser on the economy, as well as other key personnel moves.

Video: Jarrett: Job growth will be focus of speech

When it comes to issues such as federal spending and health care, Obama remains just as deeply at odds with Republicans as he was before the election. But he has said compromise is necessary. The question is exactly how to compromise, and on what policies?  How will any change of direction be framed, and what should viewers look for as clues?

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“I would have the 2009 State of the Union at hand to note the difference in agenda, rhetoric and focus,” said presidential scholar Steven Schier at Carleton College in Minnesota. “That would make an excellent compare-and-contrast piece.”

Here are some suggestions about what to look for in Obama’s address to get a better understanding of the direction he wants the nation to take for the next two years.

'The era of big government is over.'
President Bill Clinton’s statement in his 1996 State of the Union speech seemed to mark an important shift in American politics. It proved to be less than that.  It is often forgotten that the very next words Clinton said in that speech were: "But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves."

Federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was 20.6 percent when Clinton spoke in 1995 and fell to 19.6 percent of GDP by 2007, but was nearly 24 percent of GDP last year, due to increased spending on the stimulus and other federal programs and due to the shrinking economy.  (Every percentage point of GDP increase in federal spending amounts to about $147 billion.)

The era of big government is still going strong.

Video: State of the Union a re-election kickoff? (on this page)

Obama and congressional Republicans acknowledge that the United States faces a future of unsustainable deficits and debt if they don’t do something.  But it seems unlikely Obama would announce Tuesday night that he has fundamentally changed his view of the role of the federal government.

Yet he has an opportunity to embrace recommendations made by the Bowles-Simpson Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that he created last year, such as returning federal spending to 2008 levels by 2013.

A White House official said Tuesday that Obama would call in his address for a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending. Such spending accounts for about 19 percent of all federal outlays.

Such a freeze would leave unaffected the fast-growing entitlements programs such as Medicare which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will grow at an average rate of more than 6 percent a year from this year until 2020.

Investments: public, private or both?
Will Obama call for more federal investments in specific programs to create jobs, as he did in his 2009 State of the Union address?

In that speech he said “the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world.” He called for new federal money to be spent on public education, renewable energy, preventive medical care and other programs.

Promises Obama kept, promises he broke

Obama used the words “invest” and “investment” more than a dozen times in that 2009 speech and almost all of those references were to government investment.

It will be worth watching Tuesday night to see how far Obama has shifted his focus from government investment to private-sector investment.

In his comments last week while visiting a GE plant in Schenectady, N.Y. with Immelt, and in his weekly address Saturday, Obama emphasized the crucial role that private-sector investment must play in creating jobs.

In a contrast with his 2009 address, Obama has put the focus in recent days much more on American workers waging a battle with other nations’ workers. The goal, he said, is to “attract the best jobs and businesses to America rather than seeing them spring up overseas.”

His slogan from Saturday’s address — “Leading the world in innovation” — is one that could be used by GE or any other Fortune 500 corporation.

Will Obama say Tuesday night what he sees as the right balance between government and private-sector investment?

Video: State of the Union: It's all about the economy

Competitiveness and ideas to get there
From all indications, Obama will likely make enhancing the skills of America's workforce one of his major themes Tuesday and for the rest of 2011.

Other presidents, too, have had had competitiveness agendas: George H.W. Bush had a Competitiveness Policy Council and in his 2006 State of the Union speech George W. Bush announced an American Competitiveness Initiative to increase the supply of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers.

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And since 1986, there has been a private-sector Council on Competitiveness led by business executives, labor leaders, and college presidents.

The annual Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index published by the Council ranked China as the most internationally competitive economy, with India and South Korea ranked second and third and the united States in fourth place. “An abundance of highly skilled workers, scientists, researchers, and engineers contributes to a high rating for talent-driven innovation,” the Council said, referring to China.

As Harvard economist Richard Freeman has pointed out, by increasing their investment in higher education, China and India are producing more scientists and engineers – from what are far bigger populations than that of the United States — and generating more research and development. Freeman said, “the spreading of science and engineering reduces the first mover advantages that U.S. workers once had in production and thus their competitiveness in the global economy.”

A president's ability to shape an American labor force that can outshine China’s depends as much, or more, on American parents, students, and immigration policy as it does on any specific tax break or regulatory change.

Agree to 'very painful' cuts or let GOP take the lead?
It will be worth watching to see whether the president changes his tone from his Dec. 7 press conference, his most extensive preview yet of how he sees the 2012 elections.

At that press conference — just after he’d had agreed to a compromise on extending tax rates for two years — he argued that congressional Republicans will eventually be forced to agree to tax increases in 2012 because spending cuts would be "very painful."  He said, "Either they rethink their position, or I don’t think they’re going to do very well in 2012."

If spending cuts are painful, is Obama going to signal Tuesday night that he's willing to endure the pain along with the Republicans?

Slideshow: Slideshow: Obama's second year (on this page)

Or does he let House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan and others take the lead in proposing cuts, reasoning as he did in his Dec. 7 press conference that "very painful" cuts will hurt the GOP’s chances in 2012.

Tax reform
When Obama spoke in 2009, he touted the tax cuts for middle-class people in the Recovery Act and called for raising taxes on wealthy people.

A fundamental redesign of tax law wasn’t a priority for him or anyone on Capitol Hill at that point. Now it might be.

Will Obama use his broadcast Tuesday night to embrace tax reform, as recommended by the Bowles-Simpson commission? And will he indicate that he agrees with the chief tax writer in the House, Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp who said he wants to “reform the tax code in a way that lowers the tax rate, broadens the base, and promotes the competitiveness of American companies”?

Take Eric Cantor up on defense cuts?
Although House Majority Leader Eric Cantor hasn’t offered specific ideas for cuts in defense spending he has repeatedly said that defense outlays are not off limits when Congress gets down to cutting spending.

Congressional Republicans have mixed feelings about cutting Pentagon outlays.

"Everybody wants to have a peace dividend budget, but we’re not at peace," Budget Committee chairman Ryan said recently. "You can’t have a peace dividend budget when you have two wars going on."

But he also said, "there’s lots of waste" in the Pentagon’s operations and maintenance accounts, the money spent on repairing equipment and keeping planes and ships fueled and ready for duty.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already announced $78 billion in cuts to the five-year defense plan he submitted last year. Will Obama indicate ready to go beyond that?

Achieving significant savings won’t be just a matter of canceling one helicopter program or building a few less submarines. At some point, pay, benefits and headcount would need to be cut.

Pay and benefits for military service members increased by 45 percent in inflation-adjusted terms from 1998 to 2009, according to Stephen Daggett, a defense specialist at the Congressional Research Service.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Video: Address to focus on jobs, cutting deficit

Explainer: State of the union: by the numbers

  • After President Barack Obama's delivery of the annual State of the Union address to Congress, here is a look at some of the facts and figures that shape American life and how they have changed in the past decade (based on the latest available data, compiled from multiple sources).

  • Economy and Business

    Unemployed workers, January 2000: 4.0%
    Unemployed workers, January 2011: 9.4%

    Dow Industrial Average, Jan. 25, 2000:11,029
    Dow Industrial Average, Jan. 20, 2011:11,822

    U.S. federal debt, September 2000:$5,674,178,209,886
    U.S. federal debt, September 2010:$13,561,623,030,891

    Median new home price, January 2000: $163,500
    Median new home price, November 2010: $213,000

    Household income (top 5%), 2000:$252,400
    Household income (top 5%), 2009:$295,388

    Household income (bottom 5%), 2000:$10,157
    Household income (bottom 5%), 2009:$11,552

    Total U.S. population, 2000: 281,421,906
    Total U.S. population, 2010:308,745,538

    Number of U.S. millionaires, 2000:6.3 million
    Number of U.S. millionaires, 2010:7.8 million

    Price of admission to Forbes 400 list, 2000:$725 million
    Price of admission to Forbes 400 list, 2010:$1 billion

  • Politics

    Congressional approval, December 2000:55% approve; 30% disapprove     
    Congressional approval, September 2010:
    20% approve, 73% disapprove

    Confidence in national news media, December 2000:40% have little or no confidence
    Confidence in national news media, January 2011:42% have little or no confidence

    Confidence in the federal government, December 2000:19% have little or no confidence
    Confidence in the federal government, January 2010:
    35% have little or no confidence

    Hispanic/Latino electorate in 2000 election:7%
    Hispanic/Latino electorate in 2008 election:9%

    Women serving in Congress, 2000: 67
    Women serving in Congress, 2011: 93

    African-American members in U.S. Senate, 2000:0
    African-American members in U.S. Senate, 2011:0

  • Health

    Life expectancy at birth, 2000:76.8 years
    Life expectancy at birth, 2010:78.3 years, projected

    Number of uninsured Americans, 2000: 38.4 million
    Number of uninsured Americans, 2010:
    50.7 million

    Cancer deaths, all causes, 2000:553,091
    Cancer deaths, all causes, 2010:
    569,490

  • Travel

    Average price of a gallon of gas, 2000:$1.51/gallon
    Average price of a gallon of gas, 2011:
    $3.08/gallon

    Average airfare, 2000:$339
    Average airfare, 2011: $335 (through second quarter of 2010)

    First-bag fee, 2000: None
    First-bag fee, 2010:$20-25 (on most major U.S. carriers)

    Average hotel, 2000:$85.89/night
    Average hotel, 2011:$97.89/night (through September 2010)

    One-day ticket to Walt Disney World, 2000:$46
    One-day ticket to Walt Disney World, 2011:$82

  • Tech and Science

    Google searches per day, 2000: 30 million
    Google searches per day, 2011:
    Over 1 billion

    Wireless phone subscribers in U.S., 2000:97 million (34% of population)
    Wireless phone subscribers in U.S., 2011:293 million (93% of population)

    Facebook users, worldwide, 2000: 0
    Facebook users, worldwide, 2011:600 million

    Federal spending on research and development, 2000:$99 billion (actual spending)
    Federal spending on research and development, 2011:$148 billion (proposed)

    NASA science missions in operation, 2000: 38
    NASA science missions in operation, 2011:67

  • Education

    Public schools that require student uniforms, 1999-2000:12%
    Public schools that require student uniforms, 2007-2008:18%

    Public schools reporting the use of one or more security cameras, 1999-2000:19%
    Public schools reporting the use of one or more security cameras, 2007-2008:55%

    Nationwide graduation rates at public high schools, 2000-2001:71.7%
    Nationwide graduation rates at public high schools, 2007-2008:74.9%

    Average salary for public high school teachers, 1999-2000:$42,546
    Average salary for public high school teachers, 2008-2009:$53,724

    Minorities enrolled in 4-year institutions, 2000:1.5 million
    Minorities enrolled in 4-year institutions, 2007:1.8 million

    Average college tuition for 4-year private institutions, 1999-2000:$20,706
    Average college tuition for 4-year private institutions, 2009-2010:$26,273

    Science and math literacy (U.S. ranking on OECD PISA test given to 15-year-olds), 2000:14th in science, 19th in math
    Science and math literacy (U.S. ranking on OECD PISA test given to 15-year-olds), 2009:23rd in science, 31st in math

  • Sports

    Highest paid athletes (includes salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and appearance fees), 2000:Michael Schumacher, $59 million
    Highest paid athletes (includes salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and appearance fees), 2010:Tiger Woods, $105 million

    Cost of a Super Bowl ad, 2000:$2.1 million
    Cost of a Super Bowl ad, 2011:$3 million

    Rose Bowl payout (amount paid to each participating team), 2000:$12 million
    Rose Bowl payout (amount paid to each participating team), 2011:$21.2 million

    Average cost of an NFL ticket, 2000:$45.63
    Average cost of an NFL ticket, 2011:$76.47

  • Entertainment and Lifestyle

    Average movie ticket price, 2001: $5.66
    Average movie ticket price, 2011: $7.95

    Golden Globe winner for best picture, 2001:"A Beautiful Mind"
    Golden Globe winner for best picture, 2011:"The Social Network"

    Number of wide-release 3-D movies, 2001: 1
    Number of wide-released 3-D movies, 2011:30+

    Oprah Winfrey net worth, 2001:$800 million
    Oprah Winfrey net worth, 2011:$2.7 billion

    Number of children in the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family, 2001: 13
    Number of children in the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family, 2011: 19

    Most-watched TV show, 2001-2002:"Friends," 24.46 million average
    Most-watched TV show, 2010:"American Idol," 29.8 million average

    Highest-paid TV actor, 2001:Kelsey Grammer, $1.6 million per episode
    Highest-paid TV actor, 2011:Charlie Sheen, $1.25 million per episode

    Number of reality shows in Nielsen top 10, 2001: 2
    Number of reality shows in Nielsen top 10, 2010: 5

    Top-earning concert act, 2001:U2, estimated ticket sales $109.7 million
    Top-earning concert act, 2010:Bon Jovi, estimated ticket sales $201.1 million

    Average concert ticket price, 2001:$43.86
    Average concert ticket price, 2010:$55

    Popularity rank of the names "Malia" and "Sasha," 2000:498, 476
    Popularity rank of the names "Malia" and "Sasha," 2009:192, 261

Photos: Second year

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  1. President Barack Obama speaks during a town hall meeting with Ohio students, workers, local leaders and small business owners at Ewing Field House on the campus of Lorain County Community College on Jan. 22, 2010 in Elyria, Ohio. President Obama urged Congress to pass a new jobs creation bill. "Folks have seen jobs you thought would last forever disappear. You've seen plants close and businesses shut down," Obama said. (J.D. Pooley / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Members of the U.S. Supreme Court listen to President Barack Obama as he delivers his first State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 27, 2010. Obama said that a recent high court ruling would "open the floodgates for special interests" and corporations to exert more influence in political campaigns. Justice Samuel Alito (back row, second from left), breaking decorum, shook his head and mouthed the words, “No, it’s not true.” (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama defends his first year in office at a gathering of House Republicans in Baltimore on Jan. 29, 2010. He gives them a 90-minute, televised platform to air their political grievances and offer suggestions for national policy. Introducing the president, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner hands him a 27-page package of Republican proposals on health care and others issues. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden talk during a college basketball game between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Duke Blue Devils on Jan. 30, 2010 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Obama walked in just before the national anthem to big applause from the Georgetown student section, which saw him first. It was Obama’s second college basketball game that season. In November, the first family went to a George Washington-Oregon State game, where the Obamas rooted for the visiting Beavers. Michelle’s brother, Craig Robinson, is the head coach at Oregon State. (Mitchell Layton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. President Barack Obama listens as a man asks a question during a town hall meeting Feb. 2, 2010 at Nashua North High School in Nashua, N.H. Obama discussed jobs and the economy while outlining a new small business lending proposal following his State of the Union address in which he made jobs and the economy a top priority. (Darren Mccollester / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Dalai Lama speaks to reporters outside the White House on Feb. 18, 2010, following a meeting with President Barack Obama. While Beijing had demanded that the president scrap the talks, the White House took pains to keep the encounter low-key, barring media coverage of the meeting (releasing only a photo on its official website) and keeping the two out of the Oval Office (they used the lesser-known Map Room instead). (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden listen during their health care reform meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, Feb. 25, 2010, in the Blair House across the street from the White House in Washington, D.C. The meeting lasted six-and-a-half hours. Obama sat at the head of the conference table, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and then- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sen. John McCain and other Republican lawmakers sat to Obama’s left. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Transportation Security Administration employees demonstrate a new full-body scanner for members of the media at Logan Airport in Boston on March 5, 2010. One hundred and fifty backscatter imaging technology units were purchased by the TSA with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in the fall of 2009. The attempted terror bombing on Christmas Day persuaded the president to make the purchase. (Matthew Cavanaugh / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An unidentified woman hugs President Barack Obama after he speaks about health care reform at St. Charles High School in St. Charles, Mo., on March 10, 2010. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of the House Democratic Caucus march from the Cannon House Office Building to the House Chamber on Capitol Hill, March 21, 2010. The House voted 219 to 212 to pass the health care reform measure, with every Republican voting no. "Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans as a right, not a privilege," said Pelosi. The gavel she carries was used to pass Medicare legislation in 1965. (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Haiti's President Rene Preval, second from left, former President George W. Bush, second from right, and former President and U.N. special envoy for Haiti Bill Clinton, left, arrive at the earthquake-damaged Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince on March 22, 2010. The former presidents toured Haiti's rubble-filled capital to raise aid and investment for a country reeling from a Jan. 12 earthquake. Bush told reporters their purpose was to "remind the American people there is still suffering and work to be done here." (Jorge Saenz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. President Barack Obama is embraced by Vice President Joe Biden before signing his health care overhaul legislation during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010. At the end of his introduction of the president, Biden turned to Obama, embraced him and said, “Mr. President, this is a big ... deal," adding an adjective between the "big" and the "deal" that begins with "f." Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, sent out a Twitter post affirming Biden’s sentiment, ".... yes Mr. Vice President, you’re right." (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. President Barack Obama (second from left) greets U.S. troops at a mess hall at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on March 28, 2010. Obama told the soldiers that there would be "difficult days" ahead in Afghanistan but assured them that the "U.S. does not quit" until the job is done. (Pete Souza / The White House via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. President Barack Obama applauds onstage with students and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act into law at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., on March 30, 2010. This package of revisions to his new health care overhaul includes a measure aimed at making higher education more affordable. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy laugh during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 2010. During his talks at the White House, Sarkozy pressed for strong sanctions against Iran and action on climate change. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. President Barack Obama throws out the first pitch at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on opening day, April 5, 2010. He sported a Nationals jacket and cap from his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox. "I was a little disappointed with the pitch," Obama said afterward. "It was high and outside. I was intentionally walking the guy." (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at Kabul International Airport on April 11, 2010. Holbrooke and Central Command Chief Gen. David Petraeus attended a two-day conference reviewing U.S. civilian and military involvement in Afghanistan for the coming year. Holbrooke died in December at the age of 69 after falling ill at the State Department. "Tonight, America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after his death. (Shah Marai / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. President Barack Obama confers with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during Plenary Session I of the Nuclear Security Summit at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on April 13, 2010. Obama called on world leaders "not simply to talk, but to act" on securing nuclear materials in remarks prepared for delivery to a summit here. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Residents attend a rally before the visit of President Barack Obama to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on April 15, 2010. President Obama pledged his full commitment to the space program, outlining a new strategy that ends current programs while funding new initiatives. The new spending would be for research on a propulsion breakthrough to travel deeper into space. (Carlos Barria / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. First Lady Michelle Obama shows off her muscles along with the children at the D.C. River Terrace School at an event to promote physical fitness on April 21, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Her "Let's Move!" initiative involves working with local officials to provide more nutritious food in schools and allow more opportunities for kids to be physically active. Obama said she hopes one of her legacies will be her work in reducing childhood obesity. (Evan Vucci / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, left, and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House April 22, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Both aides recently announced their depature from the White House. Emanuel is running for mayor of Chicago and Gibbs will be consulting for the president. Senior Adviser David Axelrod (not shown), the architect of Obama’s 2008 election, is returning to Chicago before rejoining Obama’s re-election effort. (Dennis Brack / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. President Barack Obama walks with Linda Davis, the grandmother of deceased miner Cory Davis, during a memorial for the victims of the Upper Branch Mine explosion at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center in Beckley, W.Va., on April 25, 2010. With 29 dead, it was the country’s worst mine disaster in four decades. (Steve Helber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. President Barack Obama listens during a briefing about the situation along the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill, at the Coast Guard Venice Center, in Venice, La., in this White House handout photo taken on May 2, 2010. (Pete Souza / The White House via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan looks up at President Barack Obama after he officially nominates her to the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House on May 10, 2010. Vice President Joe Biden looks on. On Aug. 5, 2010, Kagan won full confirmation to the high court with a 63 to 37 vote. (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. President Barack Obama walks with (front to back) former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House Colonnade before making a statement in the Rose Garden on June 23, 2010. Obama announced that Petraeus will replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as top NATO commander in Afghanistan. Obama said bluntly that McChrystal's scornful remarks about administration officials in Rolling Stone magazine represent conduct that "undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system." (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. President Barack Obama prepares to pay the bill after he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ate hamburgers during lunch at Ray's Hell Burger on June 24, 2010 in Arlington, Va. Obama and Medvedev dodged the formality of a U.S.-Russia summit, slipping out of the White House to visit the burger joint. (Dmitry Astakhov / Pool via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Left to right, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton sing the National Anthem during a celebration of the life of Sen. Robert Byrd at the Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., on July 2, 2010. Byrd, a Democratic lawmaker from West Virginia, was the longest-serving senator in U.S. history. Byrd passed away on June 28, 2010. (Davis Turner / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. President Barack Obama sits in an electric Ford Focus alongside Holland, Mich., Mayor Kurt Dykstra following a groundbreaking ceremony for Compact Power's new advanced battery factory on July 15, 2010. The plant will build batteries for electric vehicles including the Chevrolet Volt and Ford Focus. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Malia Obama, 12, talks to Ryan Hutcherson, left, a member of the White House advance staff, as President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Sasha Obama, 9, visit Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, July 16, 2010. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. President Barack Obama signs the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act alongside members of Congress, the administration and Vice President Joe Biden at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 2010. The massive bill establishes an independent consumer bureau within the Federal Reserve to protect borrowers against abuses in mortgage, credit card and some other types of lending. The legislation also gives the government new power to seize and shut down large, troubled financial companies. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. President Barack Obama appears on the daytime TV talk show "The View" in New York City on July 28, 2010. From left are Barbara Walters, Obama, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. The first part of the interview dealt with jobs, the economy and the war in Afghanistan, while the second half covered lighter topics. "You name a song, I've got it," Obama said of his iPod. "I've got Jay-Z on there, I got Frank Sinatra on there, Maria Callis ...." But when Behar mentioned Justin Bieber, he responded, "I do not have Justin Bieber on there." (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha enjoy a game of putt putt golf at Pirate's Island Golf in Panama City Beach, Fla., Aug. 14, 2010. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hugs Shirley Sherrod during a news conference at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 24, 2010. Earlier, Sherrod was portrayed as a racist in a selectively excerpted Internet video and was fired from her job overseeing rural development in Georgia. Both the White House and Vilsack later apologized to her. "This is a good woman," Vilsack said. "She's been put through hell. I could have done and should have done a better job. I'll learn from that experience. I want this agency and department to learn from this experience, and I want us to be stronger for it." (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. B.J. Parker of Lake Forrest, Calif., recites the National Anthem during the "Restoring Honor" event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Tea Party favorite and conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck hosted the event, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from around the country and filled the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. "Something beyond imagination is happening," Beck said. "America today begins to turn back to God." The conservative, populist group grew to national attention during the 2010 midterms, when several candidates backed by the movement proved successful in primary contests and the general election. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk across the street in the Columbia Parc Development in New Orleans, Aug. 29, 2010, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. The redecorated Oval Office of President Barack Obama is shown on Aug. 31, 2010. The updated look includes reupholstered furniture, new paint and modern wallpaper. The schme tends toward neutral hues of brown and taupe, rather than the gold and yellow tones favored by his predecessor, George W. Bush. In the center is a cream-colored carpet featuring the presidential seal in the center and ringed on its edge with five quotations selected by Obama. The costs were covered by the White House Historical Association, a non-profit group. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House on Aug. 31, 2010. "Operation Iraqi Freedom is over," the president said. "The Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office." The address comes seven-and-a-half years after President George W. Bush launched a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. (Brendan Smialowski / Pool / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. President Barack Obama arrives with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make a statement on Middle East peace in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 1, 2010. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. President Barack Obama arrives for a news conference in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 10, 2010 in Washington, D.C. With the threat of the Democrats losing control of Congress in the midterm election, Obama answered questions on a range of topics including the performance of the U.S. economy. "Now, if you're asking why haven't I been able to create a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington, I think that's fair. I'm as frustrated as anybody by it," said the president. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. People gather at the Capitol for a "Remember in November" rally to express opposition to government spending, particularly bailouts and economic policies backed by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress, in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12, 2010. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. President Barack Obama speaks during the Millennium Development Goals Summit at United Nations headquarters in New York City on Sept. 22, 2010. The summit was held for world leaders to review the ambitious anti-poverty targets adopted in 2000 and accelerate things already being done around the world. (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. President Barack Obama greets the crowd, including a couple of protesters after speaking at the House-Senate Victory Fund 2010 fundraiser in New York City on Sept. 22, 2010. Obama urged the AIDS activists to aim their protests at Republicans, who he warned would cut AIDS funding if they prevailed in the midterm elections. "The people who would take over if we don't win this election, I promise you they'll cut AIDS funding," he said. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. President Barack Obama walks off stage with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Oct. 11, 2010, following his statement on infrastructure investment. "It should not take another collapsing bridge or failing levee to shock us into action. So we're already paying for our failure to act,” the president said. "We can no longer afford to sit still. What we need is a smart system of infrastructure equal to the needs of the 21st century." The president pushed for a $50 billion six-year proposal to modernize the country's roads, railways and runways. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. President Barack Obama greets moderator Sway Calloway while participating in a town Hall on Viacom's BET, CMT and MTV networks on Oct. 14, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Obama appeared before approximately 250 young people representing a broad cross-section of backgrounds and answered questions from the studio audience as well as from viewers submitting questions via Twitter. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. A T-shirt against Republican John Boehner is held by a rally-goer at a campaign event for Ohio Governor Ted Strickland in Columbus on Oct. 17, 2010. The president attended the event in a last-minute push for the Democrat ahead of November's midterm elections. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. President Barack Obama speaks from Erik and Cynnie Foss' backyard in Seattle, Wash., Oct. 21, 2010. The president met with the Foss family at their home before hosting a discussion on women and the economy with families and women small business owners from the area. It was one of several backyard chats he hosted in the lead-up to the midterm elections. (Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. President Barack Obama chats with Daily Show host Jon Stewart during a commercial break on Oct. 27, 2010 in Washington, D.C. During the show, Obama spoke about health care and the economy while defending his administration's record. It marked the first time a sitting president accepted an invitation to appear on the program. The Comedy Central show taped in the nation's capital ahead of its planned "Rally to Restore Sanity." Stewart poked fun at Democrats' facing tough re-election bids saying, "Democrats are now running on, 'Please, baby, one more chance.'" (Roger L. Wollenberg / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., makes remarks as Former President Bill Clinton looks on during a campaign rally at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Oct. 28, 2010. In May, the White House acknowledged it had enlisted Clinton to try to ease Sestak out of Pennsylvania's Senate primary with a job offer. Sestak stayed in the race and eventually defeated Arlen Specter to become the Democratic nominee, ending Specter's 30-year Senate tenure. Sestak lost in the general election. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. President Barack Obama speaks about the terror plot originating in Yemen against Jewish locations in Chicago during a statement in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on Oct. 29, 2010. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Left to right, Vice President Joe Biden, Ohio Democratic Senate candidate Lee Fisher, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and President Barack Obama appear together during a campaign rally at Cleveland State University on Oct. 31, 2010. It follows an Obama trip to the Buckeye state the previous weekend, when the president led a rally in Columbus. The president, vice president and First Lady Michelle Obama have made several trips there in an attempt to stem strong Republican midterm challenges. (David Maxwell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. President Barack Obama holds a post-election news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 3, 2010. He called the election a Democratic "shellacking" and lamented that "we lost track of the ways we connected with the folks who got us here in the first place." Obama said Tuesday's results confirmed what he's heard from voters across the country: People are frustrated. He said the lesson of the election was that he hasn't made enough progress in creating jobs. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. President Barack Obama, right, and First Lady Michelle Obama are led on a tour by Grand Imam Ali Mustafa Yaqub at the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia on Nov. 10, 2010. (Adek Berry / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. President Barack Obama greets military personnel at a Veterans Day event at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Nov. 11, 2010. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta on Nov. 16, 2010 at the White House in Washington, D.C. The 25-year-old soldier from Iowa, who exposed himself to enemy gunfire to try to save two fellow soldiers, became the first living service member from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor. The seven previous medals were awarded posthumously. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting on the New START treaty as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Vice Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright look on in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Nov. 18, 2010 in Washington, D.C. On Dec. 22, the Senate ratified the strategic nuclear arms treaty. Under the treaty, Russia and the United States agree to limit the number of nuclear warheads to 1,550 each, down from the ceiling of 2,200. (Dennis Brack / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. President Barack Obama and Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva (partially hidden) are sheltered by umbrellas during an arrival ceremony at the Presidential Palace before the start of the NATO summit in Lisbon on Nov. 19, 2010. (Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. President Barack Obama, second from right, and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, second from left, take part in a bilateral meeting during the NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal on Nov. 20, 2010. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press following his meeting with bipartisan congressional leadership in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Nov. 30, 2010. Note the stitches on his lower lip ... just days earlier, during a pickup basketball game, Obama was accidentally elbowed by one of his fellow players. Obama received 12 stitches under local anesthesia in the doctor's office on the ground floor of the White House after he returned home from the game at Fort McNair, a military base where he often plays. (Olivier Douliery / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. A Code Pink protester holds a sign asking for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy during the Senate Arms Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon's report's findings on the policy on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 2, 2010. On Dec. 22, Obama signed the legislation that will bring an end of the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the armed forces. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. President Barack Obama turns to leave the podium as former President Bill Clinton speaks to the press in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Dec. 10, 2010. The two presidents discussed Democratic infighting over a tax cut extension plan. "I'm going to let him speak very briefly," Obama said. "And then I've actually got to go over and do just one more Christmas party. So he may decide he wants to take some questions, but I want to make sure that you guys hear it from him directly." Obama left the press room right after the 11 minute mark; the news conference lasted 32:09. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell after signing into law the $858 billion tax-cut bill, as members of Congress and members of his administration look on, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Dec. 17, 2010. The law will prevent taxes from increasing for all income brackets and maintain Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for two years. (Michael Reynolds / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Students listen as President Barack Obama speaks after reading the book "Twas the Night Before Christmas," at Long Branch Elementary School in Arlington, Va., Dec. 17, 2010. Obama also read his own children's book, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," in a surprise visit to the suburban Washington elementary school. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio wipes a tear as he waits to receive the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, during the first session of the 112th Congress. In a roll-call vote shortly before, 241 House members cast their votes for Boehner, cementing the Ohio Republican's election as speaker of the House. "No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road," Boehner said. "The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin to carry out their instructions." (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. President Barack Obama hugs NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as he arrives at a memorial service honoring the Tucson shooting victims at McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus on Jan. 12, 2010. During his speech, the president revealed that Giffords, who was shot point-blank in the head, had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his hospital visit. "She knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey," Obama said. (Kevork Djansezian / Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Obama greet guests during an official south lawn arrival ceremony for Hu at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2011. The Chinese president attended a joint news conference and a state dinner before heading to Chicago for the second leg of his diplomatic trip. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: President Obama Hold Town Hall Meeting In Ohio
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    Above: Slideshow (65) Obama's first years in office - Second year
  2. USA presidential inauguration
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    Slideshow (68) Obama's first years in office - First year

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