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Obama Sets His Sights Small for the State of the Union

Some are big aspirational ideas. But they aren’t the big concrete proposals that come across as doable in this political environment.
Image: President Obama at the Ford Motor Company's Wayne Assembly
epa04550165 US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Ford Motor Company's Wayne Assembly in Wayne, Michigan USA, 07 January 2015. The President toured the plant which employs about 5,100 people. EPA/JEFF KOWALSKYJEFF KOWALSKY / EPA

Obama sets his sights small for upcoming State of the Union: The details and proposals we’ve heard so far suggest that President Obama is set to go somewhat small in the upcoming State of the Union address, not dissimilar from his 2014 address. This, of course, shouldn’t be surprising given that Obama is entering the fourth quarter of his presidency, and that he now faces a Republican-controlled Congress -- hardly the formula for getting big things done in the modern era. Some of his proposals so far: free community college for qualified students, paid sick leave, expanded broadband. In fairness, these things are hardly akin to the school-uniform proposals during the Bill Clinton Era, and some are big ASPIRATIONAL ideas. But they aren’t the big concrete proposals that come across as doable in this political environment. In fact, this list of proposals looks more like an agenda for a presidential candidate. What say you, Hillary Clinton?

Obama to hold presser with Cameron

At 12:20 pm ET, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron hold a joint press conference at the White House. This comes after a flurry of anti-terrorism raids in Europe. NBC News: “Anti-terror police in Belgium raided a town east of Brussels on Thursday, killing two terror suspects in a dramatic shootout that was part of a crackdown on Islamic extremists returning from Syria.” Also: “Other raids on the homes of men who'd returned from Syria were conducted across the country, prosecutors said. The men were suspected of planning attacks on Belgian police stations.” In addition, the presser comes as NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski confirms, per senior Defense officials, that 400 American military forces will take part in the training of moderate opposition fighters from Syria. The first 300 will be deployed to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The U.S. is negotiating with a fourth country in the region to provide training facilities. Oh, and will Obama and Cameron be able to top what Secretary of State John Kerry did in France today -- have James Taylor play, “You Got a Friend.” Seriously.

A big speech for Romney

The Republican National Committee has billed tonight’s 10:00 pm ET speech by Romney as brief remarks at the RNC’s winter meeting. But make no mistake: This is an important speech for Romney, because the GOP pile on continues for him. The latest example: prominent establishment Republican Vin Weber. “I'm not happy, frankly, with the way he's chosen to re-enter presidential politics, and I think his friends need to be honest with him about that. He's a great man, he'd be a great president but there's not a lot of precedent for somebody losing the election and coming back four years late, becoming the nominee,” he told Bloomberg. More Weber: “I think that Gov. Romney had two increasingly good years after losing the presidency and now he’s had one pretty bad week.” Ouch. (Weber is no bomb-thrower; realize he’s giving voice to what many establishment Republicans and conservatives have been saying behind the scenes over the last week.) Outside his loyalists and inner circle, Romney has a perception problem. And so tonight’s speech is a chance -- maybe his last? -- to turn that perception around if he’s indeed going to run. One other thing about Romney: Yes, he was his party’s 2012 nominee, and he’s earned plenty of chits campaigning for other Republicans recently. But he’s NEVER been a beloved figure by many in his party. That helps explain some of the reaction his reemergence is getting.

Cory Gardner: House Republicans made mistake in voting to roll back Obama’s immigration action

Last November, maybe the most impressive GOP victory was Cory Gardner’s Senate win, because it came in a state where Republicans haven’t had success in 2004 and where there’s a growing diverse and urban population. Well, now he’s saying House Republicans -- he was one of them until two weeks ago -- made a mistake in voting to roll back Obama’s executive actions on immigration. “‘Instead of just saying “no,”’ Republicans need to ‘actually come up with a solution,’ Gardner said in an interview on Public Broadcasting System's ‘Charlie Rose’ program," per Bloomberg’s Al Hunt. “Just to stop this or that isn't the best foot forward."

Beware of the State of the Union response curse!!!

Speaking of impressive GOP wins last November, another Republican star in the Senate is freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who was tapped to deliver the GOP’s State of the Union response on Tuesday. Our immediate reaction: Have pity on Joni Ernst. Why? Because of the curse of the State of the Union responders. Here are the last eight:

2007: Jim Webb (out of politics, although he’s making a quixotic presidential bid)

2008: Kathleen Sebelius (Obamacare rollout!)

2009: Bobby Jindal (uncomfortably awkward intro, his star has fallen)

2010: Bob McDonnell (felony conviction)

2011: Paul Ryan (losing VP nominee, though he still a top GOP voice)

2012: Mitch Daniels (out of politics)

2013: Marco Rubio (the great water incident, maybe running for the White House)

2014: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (safe – SO FAR)

On “Meet” this Sunday

NBC’s Chuck Todd will interview the new editor of Charlie Hebdo, White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer, and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

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