Obama’s SOTU: Battling for the underdog

The Republicans have already started their rebuttal to the president’s address tonight. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was all over this one before the text was even completed. Heck, he started on Sunday, calling on President Obama to “apologize.” What?

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And we have Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sending out videos today, all day long, before the 9 p.m. address. Of course, there is the Tea Party ready to go with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) who will bash away, too, I’m sure. Finally, there is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) who is the “official” GOP responder.

This group reminds me of the family dysfunction in the latest Meryl Streep movie, "August: Osage County." Throw in a little Mike Huckabee talking about women’s rights and you are back to family feud.

Obama’s best bet is to ignore the Republicans' circular firing squad and focus on Americans who are hurting. This is about taking concrete steps that help expand the middle class, provide more well-paying jobs and ensure opportunity for those who have been shut out. This is about continuing to fight for the underdog.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll by Peter Hart and Bill McInturff had a very interesting question that deserves attention. They asked how well the economy was working for various groups of people. Not surprisingly, the results showed that 81 percent of Americans thought the economy was working "very well" or "fairly well" for the wealthy, while only 13 percent thought it was working for those in poverty.

But the other answers were extremely instructive. Here is how many people thought the economy was working very or fairly well for other groups: men (53 percent); you and your family (37 percent); women (33 percent); the middle class (22 percent).

Note the large gap between men and women and, of course, the real concern for the middle class. In a sense, this is the “underdog perception.” Somebody needs to be standing up and battling for those who are getting the proverbial short end of the stick.

This is partly income inequality, but it is also a lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of a fighting chance, and a lack of evidence in their mind that there are people standing up for them. This is what Obama must make clear tonight: I will fight for you, with the support of Congress, or if need be, without them.

We should all be able to agree that this is the fight that needs to be waged. We won’t all agree on the means but we sure as heck should agree on the ends, the goals, the vision. And we should be willing to compromise and come together to get things done for the American people. This isn’t about me, and it isn’t about you; it is not about political bashing or press bombasts. It is about solving the problem.

A year ago, Obama proposed initiatives in his State of the Union address for manufacturing jobs, early childhood education, access to college, raising the minimum wage, an infrastructure jobs bank, and more. But the Republican House has dragged its feet.

It is now time to fight for the underdog, not fight each other. That should be part of the president’s message tonight.