State of the Union 2019: What To Watch For

State of the Union 2019 iHeartRadio Special

Make sure to tune in from 6-9p EST for a special pre-SOTU special I'll be hosting for iHeartRadio affiliates across the country, followed by a special post-SOTU special from 11p-1a EST. Guests will include Washington Examiner Senior Political Correspondent David Drucker, American Spectator Contributing Editor Jeffrey Lord, Historian Kevin Kruse, RNC Spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, PolitiFact Managing Editor Katie Sanders, former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, Political Analyst Dr. Susan MacManus, Political Analyst Gary Dietrich, GOP Strategist Anthony Pedicini, Market Analyst Jay Ratliff and Communications Specialist Karla Mastraccio. Plus, we'll be taking your calls throughout the night at (800) 969-9352 and we'll be carrying President Trump's address along with the Democratic rebuttal live.

State of the Union 2019 Preview

DOMESTIC POLICY

  • Immigration: Of all the issues that will be brought up tonight, this is the one that's likely to get the most attention. The key question here is whether or not the president can make a case this time that will move public opinion. From the midterm elections to his recent Oval Office address to the nation, the president has essentially been making the same case for a border barrier for quite some time. However, public sentiment on the issue hasn't moved in his direction. Is there a way he can frame the issue tonight that will change that or will the debate be in the same place tomorrow that it's in today? There will also be a lot of focus on the possibility of a national emergency declaration. That's unlikely to happen tonight, but we'll likely hear the president make a case for it in the event negotiations with Congress fail over the course of the next week and a half.
  • Health Care: Look for the president to tout his dismantling of certain aspects of Obamacare while also laying out some areas of agreement with Democrats on prescription drug prices. What you likely won't hear about is any kind of major health care reform initiative like the president rolled out in his first year in office. Drug pricing is the issue where there's some bipartisan agreement and momentum within Congress. It's also something the president has talked about since his campaign.
  • The Economy: It's pretty much guaranteed that President Trump will spend some time promoting current economic data that details the strength of the economy. You'll also likely hear pushback against concerns of a looming recession. Finally, look for the president to sell the country on his work on trade. From the new NAFTA deal to current negotiations with China, President Trump will look to laud his deal-making skills while assuaging concerns about the impact tariffs are having on businesses across the country.
  • Infrastructure: Improving America's infrastructure was a main promise of Trump's 2016 campaign and it's a problem many thought could be tackled in a bipartisan fashion. Instead of leading with infrastructure, the president chose to take on health care at the start of his term and he's been unable to gain any traction on the issue since taking office. Is there a deal to be made with a Democratic House? It's a good bet that you'll see the president touch on this possibility tonight.
  • Judicial Appointments: One of, if not the most consequential facets of the Trump presidency has been the remaking of the judicial branch with conservative appointments. Watch for the president to promote this part of his record while pushing Democrats to end the delay of some of his nominations.

FOREIGN POLICY

  • The big question on foreign policy will be how far the president deviates from the statements made by his top intelligence officials last week. After their testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on global threats, the president first pushed back on what they said and then attacked the media coverage of what they said while trying to show a unified front with his intel team. Will his address align more closely with their stated assessment or his personal views? Below are the specific threats he's likely to address.
  1. North Korea: The president's intel team stated that North Korea hasn't made significant steps towards denuclearization and likely won't in the future. The president has put a much more positive spin on the issue as he tries to negotiate with Kim Jong-un and set up a second summit. Look for the president to focus on North Korea's recent change in behavior (lack of missile testing, diplomatic improvements, etc.) while omitting the lack of progress on actually denuclearizing.
  2. Iran: The president's intel team stated that Iran is still in compliance with the nuclear deal, although they appear to be making preparations in the event that they decide to stop complying. Watch for the president to focus less on the nuclear deal and more on their aggression within the region, in addition to touting the economic difficulties they're facing due to recent sanctions levied against them by this administration. The key question here is how hawkish will the language directed at Iran be? You can bet National Security Advisor John Bolton will have had a hand in this part of the address.
  3. Syria/Afghanistan: The president's intel team stated ISIS continues to be a threat in the Syria/Iraq region, something far different from what the president has stated about the terrorist organization over the past few months. Republicans in Congress have also taken extraordinary steps to push back on the president's plan to withdraw troops from both Syria and Afghanistan. Look for President Trump to walk a fine line between making the case for a withdrawal but not giving many specifics on a timetable. You'll also likely see the president praise his administration's actions against ISIS and recent progress in peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  4. China: The president's intel team listed China as the top global threat to the U.S. Will the president take the same stance, or will he take a more careful tone on the national security threat posed by China's rise as he continues negotiations with them over trade issues? The latter seems more likely. Expect a tough tone on China when it comes to trade and more of a fleeting mention of the problems they're causing on the national security front.
  5. Russia: All eyes will be on how the president talks about Russia. His intel team issued a very damning report about their actions towards U.S. elections and the trouble they're causing across the globe. The president's rhetoric on Russia continues to be much different. Look for the president, if he mentions Russia at all, to lay out some steps his administration has taken in response to Russian aggression while continuing to make the case for why they can be helpful to us on a variety of issues.
  6. Venezuela: President Trump will likely bring up recent actions his administration has taken to push back on the Maduro regime. You could also see a connection made between the situation in Venezuela and some policies Democrats have been pushing in both Congress and on the 2020 presidential campaign trail.

OPTICS & THEME

  • The theme, according to the White House, is "Choosing Greatness" and there's going to be a big focus on unity throughout the address. A tough case to make by anyone these days, President Trump trying to sell a message of comity to a divided nation will certainly be an uphill battle.
  • As written in this piece in the NY Times, tonight is a very rare instance where you'll see President Trump stick to the script. While he's lit fire to many presidential norms and traditions, the State of the Union is one that he seems to hold in high regard.
  • Now that he's done a State of the Union and an Oval Office address, will the president be more comfortable delivering this speech? Prepared remarks are not the president's strong suit, but you can't riff during a State of the Union like you can at a rally. Don't expect to see much of a change in the president's delivery tonight. He's just more comfortable when he's in front of a crowd of supporters improvising and ad-libbing.
  • Nancy Pelosi makes her return to the seat directly behind the president for yet another State of the Union. Her reaction to the president's speech will be one of the more interesting aspects of the night. Also watch for Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell's reaction to the president's section on Syria and Afghanistan, as Senator McConnell and President Trump are not on the same page when it comes to that issue.
  • Will Democrats applaud anything the president says? It's a legitimate question, although you're likely to see some agreement on certain parts of the health care issue and infrastructure. Another thing to watch is what they don't applaud for. The opposition party can sometimes be put in awkward positions with their reaction to certain items that would seem nonpartisan. For instance, if the president calls for unity, will Republicans be the only ones clapping? Democrats will make the case that based on the president's actions the call shouldn't be taken seriously, but a move like that would certainly be noticeable to everyone watching.
  • The guests members of Congress and the president bring are always a topic of conversation. Look for themes tonight, especially from Democrats who are already running or might run for president in 2020. Who they bring and the issue that guest represents will tell us a lot about what they're focusing on in the early part of their campaigns.

SOMETHING FUN

  • From the length of the address to the amount of viewers, there are quite a few options for those looking to bet on the State of the Union. See the bets and the lines by clicking here .
  • Also, if you're looking spice up the night a bit by playing a State of the Union drinking game, you can find the rules here .

 
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