Another State of the Union address, another road trip for President Barack Obama to push now-familiar policies that he said he would pursue on his own if Congress won't cooperate.
At a Costco in suburban Maryland on Wednesday, Obama amplified his call for an increase in the minimum wage. He then traveled to Pennsylvania for another event staged around the economy.
"Americans overwhelmingly agree, nobody who's working full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty," the President said. "And that is why I firmly believe it is time to give America a raise."
Obama heads to Wisconsin and Tennessee on Thursday, continuing a tradition of selling his policy prescription directly to the public after the ceremonial report to the nation.
In his address on Tuesday, the President talked a good game of acting on his own if necessary, but his words also showed he knows that true progress depends on cooperation with a divided and recalcitrant Congress.
"Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged," he said near the end, seeming to describe 2013 – when his approval ratings dropped. "But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress."
It was vintage Obama, blending hopeful calls for a unified approach with declarations of presidential independence through executive orders.
There were the now familiar calls to recalibrate the tax code, spend more to rebuild roads and bridges, bolster education and avoid war if at all possible.
He brought many to tears with a tribute to Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg, a disabled war veteran who sat next to First Lady Michelle Obama and waved with wounded limbs to a prolonged standing ovation.
Even Republicans relentlessly critical of the President conceded his oratorical skill.
"A speech by Barack Obama is a lot like sex," said GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos. "The worst there ever was is still excellent."
According to a snap CNN/ORC International poll, 44% of respondents had a "very positive" response to Obama's speech, while 32% described a "somewhat positive" response and 22% didn't like it at all.
Last year, 53% of respondents in a similar poll rated their response to the 2013 address as very positive.
The underlying theme of Obama's fifth State of the Union address was his call for the government to work on behalf of all Americans in 2014, and his pledge to do so even if Congress refused to join him in an election year.
"Let's make this a year of action," Obama said. "That's what most Americans want - for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations."
It's an optimistic goal for a President with a 43% approval rating entering his sixth year in office and facing a determined opposition in the Republican-led House of Representatives with congressional elections looming in November.
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