'This Week' Transcript: Two Powerhouse Roundtables

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring in Stephanie Cutter, because I think part of the question will be where the president does put the emphasis on Tuesday night. We heard Jon Karl say, and I think that's right, big focus on jobs. One of the things you're seeing coming into this -- and I want to put this up on the board -- President Obama's approval rating coming in at about 52 percent. That has him about where President Bush was at the start of his second term, pretty far below where Clinton and Reagan were, so how do you expect him to husband that capital that he has remaining?

CUTTER: Well, I think that he's going to continue doing what he has been doing. And you guys used the word confrontational. I would use a different word, where he's going to lay out the case for the things that he thinks this country needs to accomplish. They'll be very familiar themes. The economy will be central to this speech and how we grow the economy so that everybody can participate, a fair shot, pay your fair share.

But the other things that he does lay out, he'll lay out the looming deadline on the sequester, the tough choices that we have to make around it, and the consequences if we let the sequester go into effect, and, you know, cuts to some pretty critical programs. So I think the State of the Union is always an important moment in a presidency. This is another chance to make the case -- not just to the people sitting in that room, but to the country of the tough choices that we have to make, and I think he'll make it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Nicolle Wallace, a cautionary tale from President Bush's State of the Union address going into this second term, big focus on Social Security privatization, Social Security reform, fell aground.

WALLACE: That's right, because I think that he made the proposal to reform Social Security without having his own party onboard. That's a lesson for any president.

But I think President Obama did the Republican Party a huge favor by delivering an inaugural address that was historically combative. He did not deliver the kind of inaugural address that people are accustomed to in recent history. Instead, he came out and, really, in a spirited way -- I wouldn't call them fighting words -- but a very spirited defense of an aggressively progressive agenda.

I'm told by staffers from Marco Rubio's office that he was -- had a certain kind of response to the State of the Union in mind, he tore it up and started again. Republicans now are ready to, I think, go toe to toe with a very spirited president who I think is ready to advance a progressive agenda. I think that this will help Republicans really, you know, match spirit with spirit and make a conservative case.

(CROSSTALK)

KARL: You know, on Marco Rubio's response, you know, the expectation for some is this is a chance for him to really showcase his immigration plan, but I'm told that Rubio's response touches very little on immigration.

WALLACE: That's right.

KARL: This will be a very confrontational speech, taking on the president. It will touch on immigration, but it is not an immigration speech.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: And the same themes that you describe, though, he's going to -- he's going to talk about the middle class, and he's going to talk about the same things you talked about, how to bring opportunity to every corner of the country, so I think it will be really a battle of ideas.

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