Joe Biden hopes to use his State of the Union to show a wary electorate he’s up to the job
President Biden delivers the 2023 State of the Union. Image via AP.

2023 SOTU Biden
He plans to contrast his job readiness to that of Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden is set to use his State of the Union address Thursday to promote his vision for a second term to a dispirited electorate who questions whether he’s up to the job and to warn that GOP front-runner Donald Trump would be a dangerous alternative.

Biden’s third such address from the House rostrum will be something of an on-the-job interview, as the nation’s oldest President tries to quell voter concerns about his age and job performance while sharpening the contrast with his all-but-certain 2024 rival.

The President hopes to showcase his accomplishments on infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as push for action on aid to Ukraine, tougher migration rules, restoring access to abortion and lowering drug prices, among other issues. But as he does so, the 81-year-old President will be closely watched not just for his message but for whether he can deliver it with vigor and command.

The President will also try to make this State of the Union, with all its accompanying pomp, a more intimate moment. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden sees the speech as a “continuation of conversations” he has had with Americans as he travels the country.

“It’s built on those conversations, that experience that he has,” she said.

Biden spent last weekend working on the speech in the seclusion of the Camp David presidential retreat with his closest aides and presidential historian Jon Meacham. He was expected to keep fine-tuning it right into speech day, Jean-Pierre said.

The President will be speaking before a historically ineffective Congress. In the GOP-led House, Speaker Mike Johnson took power five months ago after the chaotic ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Legislators are still struggling to approve funding bills for the current year and have been deadlocked for months on foreign assistance bills to help Ukraine stave off Russia’s invasion and support Israel’s fight against Hamas.

“You always hear people say, ‘Oh, the speech has completely lost its relevance. Just send a PDF of it. It should be a video.’ That’s just such nonsense,” said Michael Waldman, a speechwriter in former President Bill Clinton White House.

“It may not be as big as Taylor Swift at the Super Bowl, but it’s a big audience for a political speech.”

Biden aides inside the White House and on his campaign are hoping for some fresh viral moments — like when he tussled last year with heckling Republicans and chided them for past efforts to cut Medicare and Social Security.

Johnson, eager to avoid a similar episode this year, in a private meeting on Wednesday urged Republicans to show “decorum” during the speech, according to a person familiar with his remarks to lawmakers.

Biden goes into the speech with work to do shoring up his standing. Just 38% of U.S. adults approve of how he is handling his job as president, while 61% disapprove, according to a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The same survey found that more than 6 in 10 (63%) say they’re not very or not at all confident in Biden’s mental capability to serve effectively as president. A similar but slightly smaller share (57%) say that Trump lacks the memory and acuity for the job.

The already intense scrutiny of Biden’s age was magnified when special counsel Robert Hur raised questions about the president’s mental acuity in his report last month on Biden’s handling of classified information.

Jim Messina, former President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, said Thursday’s speech offers Biden an important opportunity to address voter concerns.

“The more people see him doing his job, the better,” Messina said. “And the more people see him out there being the president of the United States, the better off we are.”

With Hur set to testify on Tuesday before lawmakers about his investigation, Messina said, Biden’s address could serve as a “prebuttal” to the special counsel’s appearance.

Biden is expected to paint an optimistic future for the country as the massive pieces of legislation he signed into law during his first two years in office are implemented. But he also was set to warn that the progress he sees at home and abroad is fragile — and particularly vulnerable if Trump returns to the White House.

Republicans, in contrast, are describing the current state of the union with dark, menacing terms — like “crisis” and “catastrophe” — that echo the dismal tones Trump sounds on the campaign trail.

“America is in decline, nothing he says tomorrow night is going to change that,” Johnson said Wednesday.

This year, Biden could also face protests and heightened emotions — particularly among his base supporters — over his staunch backing for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. The White House had initially hoped a short-term ceasefire would be in place by the speech. It blames Hamas for not yet accepting a deal brokered by the U.S. and its allies.

The President will also issue an emphatic call for lawmakers to pass sorely needed defense assistance for Ukraine. Acute ammunition shortages have allowed Russia to retake the offensive in the 2-year-old war.

The GOP-controlled House has refused to act on a Senate-passed version of the aid legislation, insisting on new stiffer measures to limit migration at the U.S.-Mexico border, after Trump used his influence to help sink a bipartisan compromise that would have done just that.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said he was expecting that Biden “knocks Republicans in the teeth” for rejecting the border security deal.

“Voters want a candidate who cares about the border, but they want a candidate who’s going to do something about it, not just complain about it,” he said.

Access to abortion and fertility treatments also is expected to be a key component of Biden’s speech, especially in light of a controversial ruling from Alabama’s Supreme Court that has upended access to in vitro fertilization treatment in the state.

One of First Lady Jill Biden’s guests for the speech will be Kate Cox, who sued Texas, and ultimately left her home state, to obtain an emergency abortion after a severe fetal anomaly was detected.

The White House also invited union leaders, a gun control advocate, and others that Jill Biden and her husband have met as they traveled the country promoting his agenda. The Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson, will also attend to mark his country’s accession to NATO in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Going into the State of the Union, Biden also has raised the problems of “shrinkflation” – companies putting fewer pretzels in the jar and less yogurt in sealed cups — and so-called “junk fees” on services. Neither is a prime driver of inflation, but the White House hopes to show consumers that Biden is fighting for them.

Biden was also going to unveil an expanded plan to raise corporate taxes and use the proceeds to trim budget deficits and cut taxes for the middle class.

Following the speech, Biden was set for a weekend of campaign travel, holding events in Pennsylvania on Friday and Georgia on Saturday. Trump, too, will be campaigning in Georgia that day. The President’s Cabinet also will fan out across the country to amplify his message.

The Biden campaign said it would host more than 200 watch parties around the country, including in cities, suburbs and rural towns in battleground states. Campaign officials will use the events to recruit volunteers and encourage others to get involved in Biden’s reelection effort.


Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • Elly Florida

    March 7, 2024 at 7:50 am

    Will Jill be there to help him off the stage?

    • Dr. Franklin Waters

      March 7, 2024 at 11:37 am

      At least we can be 100% sure he won’t encourage Russia to attack NATO like Traitor Trump did.

      That’s what true loss of function looks like.

  • Dont Say FLA

    March 7, 2024 at 8:09 am

    Joe Biden has been senile and lost in a basement for years, according to the GOP. Yet the Biden Administration and the USA have been wildly successful, with the strongest post-Covid economy on Earth. USA recovered from Covid better than any other nation.

    If I vote for Biden, that’s a vote for whoever has been running the show the last 3.5 years since it’s not Biden, right? Well, okay. I’ll take four more years of that.

    As long as the same cabinet folk keep doing what they’re doing, and Jill keeps doing what she’s doing, and even “Giggles” keeps giggling, Biden could croak this coming February and they could do Weekend At Bernie’s with his corpse the next 4 years for all I care. The GOP says it ain’t him running his show anyhow, so he doesn’t really matter, now does he?

    Since Biden allegedly ain’t running the show, his age is not an issue like Trump’s age is. Trump can’t keep anybody on board. Everybody quits and then he says he never even met them. I always assumed Trump was lying when he claimed he never even met somebody that he had worked with for several months, but now I am starting to believe he believes his own false denials. It’s the dementia!

    For Trump, dementia is a huge issue. Trump and Trump alone runs the Trump show. If elderly Trump becomes President again and he’s lost it or he croaks, who is in charge? Nobody can say, because nobody know who will be on his cabinet that day (other than that slimy little octopus Stephen Miller. He’ll definitely still be working there)

    GOP says Senile Biden hasn’t been running the show. Okay. Great. Whoever’s been running the Biden Administration, they’ve been doing great. We need to re-elect the Biden Administration and let them keep on keeping on. There have been no better results on Earth than the results of the Joe Biden Administration, whoever it might be that’s in charge.

    • Russel Rhodes

      March 7, 2024 at 10:46 am

      President Xi appreciates your support

  • Marco

    March 7, 2024 at 11:15 am

    They will have him propped up on enough amphetime to get him through 90 minutes. Then wisk him off to another vacation so he can recover. That is, if he doesn’t get lost getting off of the podium first.

    • Josh Green

      March 7, 2024 at 11:40 am

      It’s wild how you guys think Trump isn’t even more cognitively impaired. Listen to Trump talk for 2 minutes and it’s obvious the guy should be in a home.

Comments are closed.


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