Obama Faces Uphill Battle with State of the Union Speech

Political and economic deadlock cast a dark shadow over efforts to revive the economy.

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As President Obama prepares to deliver his third State of the Union Tuesday, he faces a pretty hostile audience, not only from the Republican side of the aisle in a bitterly divided Congress, but from the American people who elected him almost four years ago.

Since January 2008, Americans' satisfaction with the state of the nation's economy has dropped 23 percentage points, with just 13 percent of Americans now satisfied, according to a recent Gallup poll.

That's the lowest rate of satisfaction and the biggest decline for any of the 24 issues measured in the Gallup survey.

Other measures of Americans' satisfaction with the state of the country have also fallen to record levels. Concern about the size and power of the government has ramped up over the past several years, with fewer than three out of 10 Americans satisfied with the current state of the government.

[Read: Romney Refocusing His Campaign.]

"It is clear that the national mood at the beginning of this presidential election year is quite different from the mood at the start of the last one," the report said, noting that State of the Union addresses are typically reserved for touting sitting presidents' successes and reestablishing the nation's priorities.

Save for a few small economic policy victories Obama will be able to trumpet during Tuesday's speech, larger initiatives have been thwarted by bitter party rivalries, with further critiques coming from Republican challengers who have their sights set on the White House. That makes Tuesday's speech a daunting task for Obama, who must present his achievements and messages as significant and important against the backdrop of the political deadlock and economic chaos that has characterized the country over the past year.

Still, Obama is expected to lay out a "blueprint for an economy that's built to last" in Tuesday's State of the Union, focusing on manufacturing, alternative energy, education and "a return to American values."

"We can go in two directions," Obama said in a video message to campaign supporters. "One is towards less opportunity and less fairness or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few."

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley