January 30th, 2014
10:01 AM ET

Obama Hits the Road to Push State of the Union Message

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.

See more at CNN's Political Ticker page

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January 21st, 2014
12:22 PM ET

His Administration Under Fire, Christie Takes Oath for Second Term

[Breaking news update 12:05 p.m.]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was sworn in to a second term on Tuesday as his administration battles allegations of scandal. In his inaugural address in Trenton, Christie praised how his state came together to meet the challenges of economic recession and Superstorm Sandy, as well as the landslide re-election victory voters gave him last November.

[Original story moved at 10:55 a.m.]

On the first day of his second term, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faces brewing storms - literally and figuratively.

A scandal over alleged political retribution by his administration has already cost a top aide and campaign strategist their jobs, and now Christie faces multiple investigations that could harm the presidential ambitions of the early Republican front-runner for 2016.

Even the weather was against him, with a looming snowstorm forcing cancellation of his gala celebration on Ellis Island after Tuesday's second-term inaugural address.

Follow along as the story develops here.

December 4th, 2013
07:45 AM ET

President’s Push to Refocus Public on Obamacare Benefits

Stop worrying about the website and start talking about Obamacare's benefits.

That was President Barack Obama's message to the nation on Tuesday as he kicked off a three-week public relations blitz intended to generate more participation in his signature health care reforms, reports CNN's Brianna Keilar.

A day after officials declared the previously dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website working smoothly for most users, Obama held a White House event to try to shift the focus of a fiercely partisan public debate to how much help the 2010 Affordable Care Act offers Americans in need.

He noted the botched website launch of October 1 set back implementation of the reforms, and encouraged supporters to help him reintroduce the law to a still skeptical nation.

"Our poor execution in the first couple months on the website clouded the fact that there are a whole bunch of people who stand to benefit," Obama said. "Now that the website's working for the vast majority of people, we need to make sure that folks refocus on what's at stake here."

The administration hopes the new ability of HealthCare.gov to handle 800,000 users a day or more without major problems signals a major step forward in getting people to sign up for health coverage now required by law under the reforms.

"The White House seems to think it's going well so far, but they also acknowledge the real proof is going to be in the December enrollment numbers, Keilar reports. "That's really their focus now that they're turning the page from the troubled website."

However, officials including Obama, warn that glitches will persist and describe the website as a work in progress.

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December 3rd, 2013
10:40 AM ET

President to Showcase Affordable Care Act

All eyes were on the problem-plagued Obamacare website Monday after the administration said it would smoothly handle most users following its botched launch two months earlier.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that 375,000 visitors went to HealthCare.gov by 12 noon ET, almost half the total daily capacity of 800,000 that officials announced Sunday as a result of a round-the-clock effort to fix the site.

However, Carney provided no details about how many of those visitors were able to sign on and enroll in insurance exchanges set up under President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.

Today, the White House is launching a three-week campaign that will try to refocus the public on the benefits of Obamacare.

President Obama will try to use his pitch to get past the glitches and remind people about the program instead of just the website, reports CNN’s Brianna Keilar.

This after new function created in the latest technological overhaul completed Sunday put people trying to sign up in an online waiting queue if capacity exceeded demand. They could wait until their turn came to enter the system, or ask to receive an e-mail when they could try again at the front of the line.

Three CNN journalists who attempted to sign on Monday ended up in the new queue around midday and then two hours later. Their wait lasted a few minutes before they received a prompt on their screen to proceed with enrollment.

Later in the day, users proceeded directly to enrollment without waiting, indicating reduced volume at the end of the afternoon, as officials had predicted.

Having declared the site working as intended on Sunday, the administration effectively painted a target on it for detractors led by conservative Republicans, who will look for any anecdotal evidence of continued problems with the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

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