Local reaction is mixed to Obama's speech

Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:31 p.m.

President Barack Obama no doubt used his State of the Union speech Tuesday night to lay out the direction of his re-election campaign as well as his intended direction of the nation, but whether the message will sway voters months from now is up for debate.

And like any political debate, opinions largely fell along party lines.

Jon Reiskind, chairman of Alachua County Democrats, joined in a viewing party at party headquarters on Northwest Eighth Avenue. Reiskind said he believed Obama's speech would draw attention back to his plans and away from the battle for the Republican nomination.

"This is very important for him. This is going to express his vision and defines not only the coming year but the next four years," Reiskind said. "That's exactly what the public needs to hear. They have been hearing so much from Republicans in their debates — and there is nothing wrong with that — but they just haven't heard the president's vision."

But Stafford Jones, head of Alachua County Republicans, said he believes America no longer has faith that Obama can solve the nation's problems.

Jones said he doesn't believe anything Obama said in the speech will sway people who are disillusioned with his presidency over issues such as high gas prices, the increased national debt, the slow return of jobs and other matters.

"I think the populace is really extremely unsettled," Jones said. "Today, (movie director) Oliver Stone, a notorious liberal, is quoted as saying he might vote for (Republican) Ron Paul over Obama. If that doesn't show you that the populace is just completely unsettled, I don't know what does. I think there is not a whole lot he can say right now. People want to see their lives start dramatically improving."

Obama will follow up the speech with a multi-state swing to talk about his plans to improve the economy, create jobs and other future goals. The speech is generally seen as the kickoff to his re-election campaign.

University of Florida political science professor Stephen Craig said he does not believe the speech will ultimately have much of a role in the election.

"It would be stunning if this or any other single speech really played a major role," Craig said. "There is so much rhetoric, and so much of it is televised. The State of the Union is kind of a big deal, but any effect that it has is probably going to be in the short term. The speech is part of the campaign dialogue. I'm sure these will be themes that you will hear from him again and again."

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