Analyzing Obama's State of the Union Address, Looking Ahead to GOP Debate

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Americans will see two dramatically different portrayals of the nation this week.

Without even mentioning the election, President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address last night included a number of critiques of the rhetoric from Republican candidates who are preparing for tomorrow's debate in South Carolina.

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Political communications expert Jason DeSanto discusses the president’s speech and upcoming debate.

“I think it was a good speech, it was an effective speech. I don’t think it was as much of a groundbreaker as we were probably led to believe ahead of time in terms of how it would be structured and different from prior State of the Union addresses,” DeSanto said.

“Mostly when we talk about State of the Union addresses, we bring forward best in American traditions and values for our time—certainly something Ronald Regan did, Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in their speeches—unity is one of those. A common purpose,” he added. “It’s certainly something that this president talked about going back to 2004 and then through a number of speeches, so it made sense to contrast what he believes his politics are about with what he believes and wants to articulate [Donald] Trumps politics are about…”

“Donald Trump represents to him everything that he doesn’t think this country is about. Everything that he doesn’t want it to be about, and to the extent that this is going to be about this year’s election: what the choice is this year for people to make about what kind of country they want,” DeSanto said.

While Obama’s State of the Union address subtly argued for an alternative vision to Trump, DeSanto says to expect the same thing at Thursday’s Republican debate.

“Isn’t it interesting that last night to some extent, even though it was an argument about the future, it was also an argument about an alternative vision to Donald Trump. Tomorrow night’s about the same thing. It’s just who on that stage is going to be the alternative to Trump over the next few months,” he said.

As for the GOP candidates who are part of the secondary debate, DeSanto says it’s too late for them.

“It’s too late to break out of the secondary debate to get back into the first debate,” he said. “At this point, I think it’s safe to say if you’re still in that secondary debate, you’re going to have a hard time having any momentum. In the first debate, the way that you break through is to have the big moments but also to contrast yourself ably with the people who are your chief competition to be that alternative.”  

Missed the State of the Union? Watch it below.

Republican Debate

When: 8 p.m. (9 p.m. ET), Thursday, Jan. 14

Who: Businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Where: Airing on Fox Business Network (check your local listings.); hosted at North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in South Carolina

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