Let Me Start: State of the Union

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama
Rex Features via AP Images

President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday tonight. He’s expected to lay out his agenda with a focus on the middle class, but it’s not just what he says but how he says it. The New York Times reports that insiders notice a palpable change in this president since winning re-election—he’s displaying more confidence and more assertiveness—and that may give us clues as to what kind of second term he will have.

How did the state of the union get so strong? Presidents have been proclaiming the state of the union as strong for years, but as The New York Times reports, it wasn’t always the case.

Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver the Republican Response, and in a preview, Rubio says big government hurts people. That won’t be far from the official Tea Party response, delivered tonight by Sen. Rand Paul. So why have two responders? The GOP might say it’s speaking of one voice, but the state of the party’s union is not strong. Two responders underscores the growing rift in the party between the establishment and the Tea Party factions.

Add another challenge for President Obama on the foreign policy front: North Korea confirms it conducted another nuclear test.

Senate Republicans are reviving their filibuster threat against the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.

Finally, ex-congressman Joe Walsh, darling of the Tea Party, says he can’t afford child support payments because he’s now unemployed. From his filing: “Joe’s employment has been terminated through no voluntary act of his own and he is without sufficient income or assets with which to continue to pay his support obligation.” (Hat-tip to TPM and the Chicago Sun-Times.)