President Barack Obama enters the briefing room of the White House to speak to the media Nov. 24, 2014.
Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Obama’s 2014 year-end press conference: 10 topics to expect

Updated

“It’s the most wonderful press conference of the year,” President Obama joked almost exactly a year ago, before delivering his annual, year-end press conference. And on Friday at the White House, the president is slated to take on 2014 – its highs and lows – along with his vision for the year ahead. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the topics America’s commander-in-chief is likely to address:

  1. The U.S. economy. Jobs are up, gas prices are down, and you better believe Obama will tout these positive numbers in his year-end appearance. Last year, the president proudly boasted about “bigger paychecks for middle-class families and bigger savings for businesses looking to invest and hire here in America.” This year, with impressive third-quarter economic growth and increasing domestic energy security, he’ll likely continue the push to raise the federal minimum wage, and discuss how well-positioned the country is to begin an equally prosperous new year.

  2. Health care. “It’s been a far smoother ride for health care reform’s online marketplace this year,” writes msnbc’s Suzy Khimm, recalling 2013’s “disastrous rollout. ” In fact, the president’s signature health care law seems set to meet the Obama administration’s 2015 goals for enrollment. And better still, “the percentage of Americans without health insurance [overall] was at or near historic lows this year … and appears certain to fall to record levels next year,” writes Time Magazine’s Zeke J. Miller. Naturally, the president will honor Obamacare’s success on Friday while  promoting the Feb. 15 deadline for 2105 enrollment.

  3. Ebola. Although Ebola is no longer front-page news, the deadly virus remains a key White House priority. “We are nowhere near out of the woods yet,” Obama told reporters last month, putting pressure on Congress to approve billions in emergency funding to help fight the outbreak. Lawmakers eventually agreed to spend $5.4 billion, short of the $6.2 billion Obama requested, but enough to bolster domestic hospitals and fund USAID efforts overseas. The U.S.-led campaign against Ebola will be no less important in 2015, as the world continues working to contain – and eventually vaccinate against – this contagious disease.

  4. The war against ISIS. Just last month, Obama announced his plan to send as many as 1,500 more soldiers to Iraq to train local forces there to fight the so-called  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – a timeline-free fight that has garnered widespread support from both political parties. And on Thursday, the U.S. participated in an offensive that the head of the Kurdistan Regional Security Council called “the single biggest military offensive against ISIS, and the most successful.” On Friday, count on Obama to praise the American military for its victory and field questions about an eventual exit strategy.

  5. Race. One topic Obama did not mention in his 2013 press conference that he will almost certainly raise this time around is race – particularly, disparate policing in communities of color. It is, after all, the year 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed while unarmed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the year Eric Garner’s chokehold death at the hands of a white police officer was caught on cell phone video, and the year that neither of the cops associated with those killings was charged with a crime. To say race was a hot-button issue of 2014 is an understatement, and President Obama will most likely dedicate some serious air time to the topic on Friday.

  6. Executive actions. So much for a lame-duck president. Last month, Obama “sidelined a gridlocked Congress by issuing an executive order to prevent the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.” And just this week, the president announced his unilateral decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. Both moves were met with fiery opposition from the right – with few exceptions – but the president held strong, saying, “These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.”

  7. Sony hacking scandal. It certainly sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, but Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Thursday called the Nov. 24 hacking attack on Sony Entertainment “very serious” and said the Obama administration is considering “a range of options” in response to the scandal. On Friday, Obama will likely reiterate Johnson’s sentiment while trying to appease American movie-goers frightened by the so-called terror threats. After all, a blow to the box office is a blow to the economy, and according to The Los Angeles Times, “December is a key month for many studios and accounted for roughly $1 billion in ticket sales last year in the U.S. and Canada.”

  8. The Senate torture report and Guantanamo Bay. Given the amount of media attention it’s been getting lately, someone is bound to ask Obama on Friday about the Senate’s scathing torture report. Released last week, the report shows that “CIA interrogation tactics, employed for days or weeks at a time, never led to ‘imminent threat’ intelligence” among other startling revelations. That, coupled with the president’s longstanding promise to close its controversial military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, all but guarantees some controversial questions are coming Obama’s way.

  9. Post-midterm bipartisanship. After the Democratic blood bath that was the 2014 midterm election cycle, President Obama has the next two years cut out for him if he hopes to see a single bill passed. Expect the president, therefore, to wax poetic on the virtues of bipartisanship Friday, in an effort to thwart two years of gridlock ahead.

  10. 2016. With the movement to draft liberal hero Elizabeth Warren heating up, Obama will likely be asked for his thoughts on the senator, and whether she — or anyone else — can do what Obama himself did in 2008 and take down Hillary Clinton. Obama will almost certainly decline to endorse anyone at the press conference, but he’ll probably offer praise for his former secretary of state, as well as his vice president, Joe Biden, who is also eyeing a run to replace him. After all, he had no problem joking about 2016 at the White House Corespondents Association dinner this year.

Barack Obama, Cuba, Ebola, ISIS and Obamacare

Obama's 2014 year-end press conference: 10 topics to expect

Updated