The Scoop: The State of the Union was feisty. Will it change anything?

Plus: How Republicans responded; overnight opinion polling.

The State of the Union address

President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday night with the pomp and circumstance the rare occasion calls for. But it was also filled with feisty jabs, deviations from scripted remarks and plenty of politics.

Still, will it ultimately change the way anyone views Biden — or how they’ll vote in November?

In this special dedicated edition of The Scoop, we’ll dive into the speech, the Republican responses and what it all means for public perception.



The speech itself

The media referred to Biden’s speech as “fiery,” “strikingly political” and “defiant.” Conservative mainstay Fox News called it “sharply partisan.” Donald Trump was mentioned 13 times but never named in the speech, called only “my predecessor.”

“Contrast, contrast, contrast. That was nearly the whole ballgame for Biden’s SOTU address last night,” according to Politico’s Playbook.

All throughout, Biden drew comparison to himself as compassionate, American, pro-democracy and Trump as the opposite. He hammered on the Jan. 6 insurrection, reproductive rights and immigration in particular.

“We must be honest,” Biden said. “The threat to democracy must be defended. My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth about Jan. 6.

I will not do that.”

Economics were a mainstay of the speech, with Biden touting strong jobs numbers in particular, but as the New York Times pointed out, he abandoned what had been a signature term: Bidenomics.

The president was all-in on calling for support for Ukraine, but more measured in his remarks on the Israel-Hamas war. He reaffirmed the nation’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists, but also struck a stronger tone with the Israeli government, calling on them to do more to protect civilians and not use aid as a “bargaining chip.” His comments come amid growing anger from his own party over continued support of Israel as the civilian death toll mounts in Palestine.

Fact checks of the speech were overall mild, mostly quibbling over interpretations of various economic data rather than calling out whoppers. It’s standard political fare.

But perhaps most strikingly, Biden struck an optimistic tone. A vision of an America that was healing and growing.

“We are the United States of America!” he cried to end the speech. “And there is nothing, nothing beyond our capacity when we act together.”

The Republican response

The Republican response, both in the chamber and across the country, painted a different vision of America.

Outspoken presidential detractor Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene again interrupted the speech, bringing attention to the murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley, allegedly by a Venezuelan migrant. Biden stopped the speech to respond.

“An innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal. That’s right,” Biden said, going on to point on that many murders are also committed by “legals.”

In doing so, he showed a feisty willingness to respond — but stepped into a controversy in his own party. The New York Times reported that a number of Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups were angered by his use of the term “illegal,” which they feel is dehumanizing to migrants. Again, one of the bigger issues Biden faces in November is not just opposition from Republicans — it’s from the liberal wing of his own party.

After Biden’s speech, Alabama Senator Katie Britt gave the Republican response, delivered from her Birmingham kitchen table. She called the current American dream “a nightmare,” referred to Biden as “dithering and diminished” and painted Republicans as the party of families, reaffirming support for IVF even as her own state called it into question.

It was a pointed speech and choosing a 42-year-old mother was no accident, drawing (here’s that word again) a sharp contrast with the 81-year-old Biden.

The national response

The good news for Biden is that more than 60% of viewers who watched the State of the Union had a positive impression of his remarks, according to an overnight CNN poll. The bad news is that last year 72% of viewers responded positively.

That’s a big dip any year, but especially in an election year.

The difference came largely from Republicans, who moved from roughly 60% disapproval last year to about 75% this year, CNN reported.

Before the speech, polling found that 25% of respondents had a lot of confidence in Biden’s ability to carry out the duties of president; after, it was 31%, showing his speech did, indeed, move the needle. In good news for the president, much of that positive change was attributed to the independents who he’ll need to win in November.

Politico’s Playbook reported that after the speech, Biden had the best two fundraising hours of this election so far.

Why it matters

Biden did what he needed to do: he delivered a speech that made it clear who he was, who his opposition was and the differing visions of America. But will that be enough in today’s contentious, fractured environment? Viewership numbers for the speech haven’t been released, but last year, it was just 27.3 million — a drop in the bucket compared to the wider electorate.

The speech shows some positive momentum for Biden, but ultimately, it’s a long way to November. The overall state of the country, his jousting with Trump and lurking unknowns will ultimately matter more than one night’s speech.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.


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