State political figures react to Obama speech along party lines

A strong State of the Union address is what President Barack Obama needed to refocus his administration and his party’s faltering image, but only time will tell if leaders from both sides of the aisle were listening, some observers said.

John Straayer, a Colorado State University political science professor, said many people expected Obama to be more apologetic about his first year in office, particularly on health care and the party’s recent election losses.

“But he didn’t eat one bit of crow,” Straayer said. “There was a lot of punditry about how he ought to back off. Well, he didn’t. We saw more determination and resolve than we have for some time.”

While some Colorado Republicans said Obama didn’t address the nation’s economic woes to their liking, Democrats said most of his address was on point.

The question is: “How will Congress react?” said former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff, who’s vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination against U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

“The president made it clear he inherited a mess and that Congress was part of the problem,” Romanoff said. ” He said too many politicians seemed more interested in their own job security than in ours. It was a strong speech. It needs to be matched by strong action by Congress.”

Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, a GOP candidate for her party’s nomination for the Senate, said the president still doesn’t get it. The Grand Junction native said Obama’s economic proposals still focused on government fixes, rather than government getting out of the way of business.

“President Obama still seems not to understand the underlying flaw that has defined his first year as president: It is the private sector, not government, that creates jobs and economic growth,” Norton said. “For every issue facing America ... this president has proposed big-government solutions.”

Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams echoed those comments: “(Democrats) continue to mindlessly support the failed Obama agenda to increase the size, cost and scope of the federal government.”

Straayer said he’s not surprised the two continued to criticize the president.

“This is an election year, and you’re certainly not going to get Wadhams or Norton to come out and say he made some really good points,” Straayer said. “(Obama) made it very clear that the recession and a big chunk of the debt, he inherited when he walked in the door. Wadhams’ job is not to agree with the president.”


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