By William A. Galston
In a fighting State of the Union address, President Biden made few concessions to public skepticism about his record—and none to his political adversaries. He made it clear that he intends to run on his record and that the American people will respond favorably to it as they experience its benefits more fully. He focused on the economy and downplayed the cultural issues that have become more central to our politics over the past decade.
As President Biden stepped to the rostrum to deliver his address, he faced three key tasks: laying out a credible policy agenda for the 118th Congress, integrating this agenda with his political strategy for winning reelection in 2024, and dispelling widespread public doubts about the impact of increasing age on his fitness for a second term.
The president also faced several important obstacles. First, as my colleague Elaine Kamarck has written, there is a tension between the story of accomplishment he wanted to tell and the public’s perception of how things are going. As Kamarck noted, a recent NBC poll found that 71% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track—a continuation of what the pollsters called an unprecedented level of “sustained…