Washington (CNN) — Three numbers to keep in mind Tuesday night as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address: six, 30 and 43.
Six as in the number of seats Republicans need to gain this November to take control of the Senate.
30: The historical average of House seats gained by the other party — in this case the Republicans — in a two-term president’s “six-year itch” midterm election.
And 43%, of course, is Obama’s job approval rating — a reminder that his political standing is weak, though up slightly from its recent low point, as he stands before a closely divided Congress — and country — to lay out his agenda for year six of his presidency.
“One of the greatest powers a president has is the power to set the agenda,” said veteran Democratic strategist and wordsmith Paul Begala, a close adviser to former President Bill Clinton. “He (Obama) will use that power to great effect in the State of the Union address.”
Another Clinton White House veteran disagreed, arguing this president is too weakened and the 2014 campaign landscape too troublesome to seize the initiative.
“State of the Union means nothing,” this Democrat said, speaking only on condition of anonymity. “Re-read last year’s address. How relevant was it last year in terms of how 2013 turned out?”
In fact, Obama failed to get any of his top 2013 State of the Union priorities through Congress. Congress ignored his calls for a new jobs program, for new gun controls and for sweeping immigration reform.