Obama State of the Union: 'Do-Nothing' Congress Campaign Hits Capitol Hill

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The speech is almost certain not to alter the polarized dynamic in Washington that has stifled the prospect of compromise over major legislative agenda items -- a dynamic Obama once decried and pledged to fix.

There is also simmering anger among congressional Republicans over the recess appointments of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Board and three others to the National Labor Relations Board. And there's a lingering resentment over the bruising payroll tax cut fight and the rejected Keystone XL oil pipeline, a shovel-ready project Republicans said would create thousands of jobs.

"I read a lot about what the president is going to talk about Tuesday night. And it sounds to me like the same old policies that we've seen," House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday in an interview with Fox News. "More spending, higher taxes, more regulations -- the same policies that haven't helped our economy, they made it worse.

"And if that's what the president is going to talk about Tuesday night, I think it's pathetic," Boehner said.

Obama aides say the president rejects the notion that nothing will get accomplished in Washington in this election year. Still, it's hard to deny that progress will be more difficult now than ever before.

But for Obama, the gridlock itself may matter less than the fact that it plays into the narrative he's crafting for his re-election campaign: a narrative that portrays him as a "warrior for the middle class" in the face of a recalcitrant Congress.

In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Obama leads Republicans in Congress by a 13-point margin on who voters trust to better protect the middle class, 48 to 35 percent. He also leads by 8 points on who would be better on boosting job creation.

The public by 55-35 percent margin also says unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy is a bigger problem than over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity. That puts Obama on the more popular side of this central debate by 20 points.

Meanwhile, just 13 percent of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is handling its job, its lowest rating in nearly 40 years of polling by ABC News. Obama's job approval rating in the poll stands at 48 percent.

One year ago, Obama spoke to the nation from a united House chamber, where members of both parties crossed the aisle to sit side by side in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"We will move forward together, or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics," Obama said at the time.

One year later, on many counts, members of both parties have shown they chose to stay put. And it's likely for the next 10 months they still will.

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