Oh, how quickly memories fade. Remember the shutdown? And all the heat it generated on the GOP? Beset by sagging poll numbers and an onslaught of attacks on Obamacare, Obama might wish he could turn back the clock and use his bully pulpit tonight to help.
Only 37 percent of Americans say they're confident that Obama can make the right decisions for the country's future – down from 61 percent five years ago – according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Tonight, Obama won't be looking back, his closest advisers say. Instead, he plans to take the high road, praising the year-end bipartisan budget deal and calling once again for common ground. "I don't think it's confrontational. It's let's find areas to work together," Pfieffer said Sunday.
It won't be all pleasantries, however. There is yet another fight ahead over the need to raise the debt limit -- something Obama says he won't negotiate. Expect an increase to the debt limit to be a rare State of the Union demand.
6. Obamacare is on target!
Not only has the administration missed its targets for Obamacare sign-ups (they're about a million behind pace), but the law is already proving problematic for Democrats seeking re-election in 2014.
Six in 10 Americans still don't think the website is working properly, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Fifty-four percent see the site glitches as a sign of broader problems in the law itself.
Obama will tonight no doubt hail the popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act that took effect this year, such as the ban on discrimination for pre-existing conditions and the requirement that preventive care services be covered at no additional cost. But one thing he can't say is whether the law is on target with its primary goal: expanding coverage and containing costs.
We still don't know critical details about the 3 million Americans who have signed up for Obamacare so far: How many enrollees have actually paid for their plans and have coverage? How many of those are healthy? And how many were previously uninsured? The answers to those questions are critical to determining whether the law is working.
7. It's time to decriminalize pot.
Obama won't utter those words tonight, of course. But never before has an American president come so close to saying them.
"I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama said of marijuana in the interview with the New Yorker's Remnick. He told ABC's Barbara Walters in 2012 that the feds have "bigger fish to fry" than to prosecute individual pot junkies. Last August, he moved to exempt low-level, nonviolent drug users from stiff mandatory sentences – a shift that was hailed on both sides of the aisle.
Still, Obama told Remnick that pot is "not something I encourage, and I've told my daughters it's a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy." On a list of Obama policy priorities for 2014, weed decriminalization wouldn't seem to rank very high.
That said, Obama has left the door open to further leniency toward pot, unleashing a torrent of new public pressure.
"Taking action on this issue is long overdue," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who wants Obama to remove marijuana from the federal list of harmful drugs. An online petition calling for the same has more than 40,000 signatures.
8. I canceled the congressional picnic ... and I don't regret it.
After a bruising year when few of Obama's 2013 priorities got done, it was perhaps fitting that this year's White House congressional picnic was canceled. It was first postponed in June, then later scrapped amid brinksmanship over Syria. Some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed disappointment and exasperation. But the president probably wasn't shedding any tears.
It's no secret that schmoozing with members of Congress is not one of Obama's favorite pastimes, and addressing all of them in the House chamber likely isn't either. It's why White House aides have been framing Obama's State of the Union address tonight as more a message aimed directly at viewers at home than anyone else.
"The State of the Union is not just a conversation with Congress, but a conversation with you, the American people," said Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough in a video posted to the White House website.