State of the Union will define Trump agenda ahead of crucial midterms

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The Constitution sets forth the obligation of the president of the United States to report to Congress on the State of the Union: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Prior to the advent of radio, presidents would submit a written report to Congress on the State of the Union that would thereafter be reported to the nation by newspapers and magazines. When radio became popular in homes the president would address a joint session of Congress and his address would be carried live on radio stations with Americans huddled around their receivers to listen in.

{mosads}Thereafter, with the invention of television, the president had the added value of reaching citizens through, television, radio and newspapers. As a result, the magnification and reach of the State of the Union audience was an important tool for the president to use to get his agenda before the American people unfiltered and in real time.


The State of the Union has as much to do with tradition as it does with the mode of delivery and technology. The object is to reach as many Americans as possible. Theoretically, a president today could “tweet” a State of the Union to Congress and be in compliance with his constitutional obligation. In fact, I fully expect that President Trump will augment his address before a joint session of Congress with tweets about it before and after, and maybe even during as well.

A State of the Union gives the president the opportunity to set forth his agenda for 2018 unfiltered. It is aspirational and well as a challenge to Congress to get behind the president’s legislation schedule. The start of a State of the Union is typically reflective on the prior year with the president stating what was accomplished and then the president will pivot to unfinished work as well as new challenges for a new year.

A State of the Union always includes three main parts: a laundry list of domestic items, followed by a trip around the globe to identify international challenges, and then a review of America’s national security to include the need to maintain a strong military. Great thought is put into every word contained in a State of the Union. How much is devoted to a topic and where it appears in the address is a roadmap as to the priority and importance given to it.

President Trump’s first State of the Union in advance of a midterm election will be comforting to Republicans and contentious to Democrats. This is especially true in light of the government shutdown and robbing the president from celebrating his inauguration one-year anniversary. This year will bring opposition that will be less than cooperative with a strategy that has drawn battle lines for November.


The chances to revisit the full repeal and replacement of ObamaCare or comprehensive immigration reforms or tackling entitlement funding may be too much to hope for. Democrats believe it is their interest to thwart, delay or deny the president’s agenda and will only do what is absolutely necessary in congressional actions and nothing more. Self-imposed rules of the Senate on procedure will handcuff the president’s 2018 agenda, and while legislation will move through the House, bills will die in the Senate.

In order for the president to have a successful 2018 agenda he must do two things. First, he must reach across the aisle and be content with “half a loaf” to gain some Democrats to support his agenda items. Second, he must use the bully pulpit to advance his agenda by speaking directly to the people and travelling to vulnerable House and Senate Democrat districts and states to exert pressure in advance of the midterm elections.

I believe 2018 midterm elections will be no different than any other. Citizens will vote with their pocket books. If Main Street is doing as well as Wall Street and the president is able to drive home a positive economic message, then Republicans will fare better than expected.

Since the era of the Civil War, the party that controls the White House on average loses 32 House seats and two Senate seats. Democrats are banking on history, while Republicans are banking on a record of accomplishment and math. Democrats in 2018 are defending many more seats than Republicans, which means they need a lot more resources to be spread thinly among many needy candidates.

The stage awaits President Trump on Jan. 30. What he will say, how he will say it, and how it will be received will define his state of mind and the State of the Union.

Bradley A. Blakeman is a political consultant who served as a member of President George W. Bush’s senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.

Tags Democrats Donald Trump Election Government Look Ahead: SOTU 2018 Republicans White House

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