In the Nation's Capitol the State of the Union for the party in power is directionless.
Democrats in control of the White House, the Senate, and House of Representatives all admit that after a year in office they have no idea how to move forward on (what HAD been) their top 2 domestic priorities: health care reform and climate change legislation.
Tonight with unemployment above 10 percent, the deficit skyrocketing, public anger at democratic control mounting, and the President's poll numbers in the lowest of historical basements, Mr. Obama will deliver a State of the Union Address aimed at beginning to layout this midterm election year's new domestic priority- a jobs plan.
It says a lot when Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) who chairs the Majority House Democrats re-election effort begins interviews with unsolicited comparisons to 1994 - when democrats last lost their majority in a GOP tsunami. But that's what he did (more than once) when I interviewed him on the eve of the President's big speech. He says the democratic majority is safe but gonna shrink, BIG. "We've told our members from day one: prepare for a difficult election. So no one is gonna be surprised this time around to encounter a tough political environment" Van Hollen said.
The Democratic leadership’s lack of legislative results last year, the political fallout from GOP wins in VA, NJ, and MA, and of course the polls, are aligning to create an everyman for himself survival situation for dozens of House Democrats. There are 51 fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats who find themselves increasingly at odds with their parties agenda and endangered because of it. There are 49 democrats from congressional districts in which John McCain beat Mr. Obama in 2008. All of them are anxious because of how unpopular the President and their parties agenda has become.
But Democratic centrists are only part of the story. The President's far left liberal base is also angst ridden and splintering. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich is so infuriated by the administrations economic stewardship he wants Geithner and Summers both fired.
Yes, there have been a handful of veteran democrats who've opted to pack it in rather than risk a costly loss but it's not a wave...yet.
Yes, Indiana Democratic Senator Evan Bayh has ramped up his centrist criticism of his party and President but he hasn't announced a 2012 primary challenge...yet.
Any Presidential overtures of bipartisanship tonight will likely be received with extreme skepticism by Republicans. Majority Democrats gave House Republicans virtually no say in any major legislation last year and in the Senate Democrats decided to write healthcare legislation without GOP input in August last year.
Republican candidates are winning, coffers are filling, phones are ringing. Polls show the public is increasingly pleased with the loyal opposition and frustrated with democrats. It's an unhappy place for Democrats. They say they have gotten the message. What they haven't got...and admit lacking..is a plan.
Such is the stage for Mr. Obama's first State of the Union Address to Congress.