MR. COSTA: It’s not just immigration we’re paying attention to because President Trump will return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a State of the Union address. He’s expected to talk about infrastructure, as well as immigration, the state of the economy and that Republican tax law that was passed in December. But his address to the nation comes at a time when his approval ratings are historically low compared to those of his Republican and Democratic predecessors.
Many female Democratic lawmakers plan to wear black to the president’s address in solidarity with the movements protesting sexual harassment and misconduct. Other Democrats say they’ll skip the whole thing and protest the president’s recent remarks about immigrants from Haiti and African nations.
Jake, is the president going to have a bipartisan tone in this address, based on your reporting?
MR. SHERMAN: Probably not. But I think what we will see is we’ll see the beginning of the effort to sell the tax law, which is Republicans have kind of pushed all their chips in the middle for this midterm election, that the tax law that they passed, people will have more money in their pocket and they’ll feel like they should be voting for Republicans in November.
I think that there’s a lot of skepticism if you talk to Republicans behind the scenes that this will work. But they do say President Trump needs to be out there talking about businesses and individuals keeping more money, creating more jobs and nothing else. They don’t want him talking about other things, veering off on tangents. Get on the trail, get in front of cameras, talk about the American ‒
MR. COSTA: So not a big project on infrastructure in 2018?
MR. SHERMAN: A lot of people, my sources and I’m sure your sources, too, tell you on the Hill that’s probably not possible. The president wants to spend something like a trillion dollars on infrastructure. I don’t think he’s going to find much cooperation from Democrats or Republicans.
MR. COSTA: Karen.
MS. TUMULTY: Well, I think, you know, State of the Union addresses always begin with that line about, you know, ladies and gentlemen, the state of our union is ‒ and I guarantee you that that line will be followed by a bunch of superlatives. (Laughter.) I think this is going to be Donald Trump’s hourlong, uninterrupted moment to really claim that he has made a lot of progress, that he has brought the country to a different place.
And what we have seen and saw in Davos is that Donald Trump on the teleprompter can do that. The question is whether Donald Trump 48 hours later on Twitter can maintain that message discipline.
MR. BENNETT: I think he’s going to try to make this case that he’s been making here and there over the last few months, which is that the stock market going up, look at your 401(k), this helps everyone in the country. And he’s going to try to make that case that even people maybe who didn’t see as much benefits of the tax cut ‒ he’s not going to say it this way ‒ but they’re going to benefit from a surge in the economy and a surge in optimism and businesses investing in new jobs and other things like that.
I’m sure also he’s going to bring up immigration. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the gallery, as he did when he addressed Congress a year ago, he brings up some people who maybe their loved ones were killed by people who were in the country illegally, or something like that, to try to make this security case for his immigration push that he’s been making.
MS. TORBATI: Certainly, that’s something the administration has been doing in a variety of methods over the past few weeks, trying to kind of make the case to the American people that there’s either a terrorism link to immigration, which, you know, some researchers who have looked at the data really, you know, kind of doubt, or that there’s a jobs link to immigration. So that’s ‒ I’m sure it’s likely to be a big part of the speech.
MR. SHERMAN: One quick point: He does have a good message on the stock market, right? I mean, the stock market is breaking records. People’s 401(k)s probably, if they have them, and not every American has a 401(k), they are up. I mean, there is a message here if crafted right and kept within a general discipline. It’s a good message for Republicans.
MR. COSTA: So the sides are digging in. So the president will tout his accomplishments and the Democrats are really readying for a midterm election, Karen. Will they think they can have a possible wave?
MS. TUMULTY: They certainly do. And, you know, at this point, what they need are a few things breaking their way. They need to come up with some good candidates who can appeal to voters in these districts where they’ve got, in particular, Republican incumbents who are sitting in seats in districts that were won by Hillary Clinton. But certainly, the Democrats think they’ve got a huge opportunity here.
MR. COSTA: And Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts will be giving the Democratic response, a younger generation of Democrats. They’re trying to highlight them at least.
MS. TUMULTY: Exactly. I think they want to ‒ they want the world to know that not every Democrat of note is 70 years old or older. These spots, though, this chance to be the person who responds to the State of the Union, hasn’t always worked out so well for people who have given it, though. So this will be a big moment for the next generation of Kennedys.
MR. SHERMAN: I think from my reporting, Democrats are incredibly bullish about taking back the House and feel like they look at these generic ballot numbers where people say their preference between Democrats and Republicans, they keep ticking up. They’re 12 points, and 12 points means you take back, according to them, something like 35 to 40 seats. So they want to do no harm at this point, Democrats, and they don’t want to tie themselves to Trump, don’t have the incentive to cooperate with the president, especially coming up to a midterm election where they think they’re in really good shape.