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AMANPOUR (voice-over): This morning on "This Week."
(UNKNOWN): Madam Speaker...
AMANPOUR: On the eve of the State of the Union...
(UNKNOWN): ... the president of the United States.
AMANPOUR: ... we assess the state of the presidency. For Barack Obama, it's been a year of highs...
OBAMA: We are done.
AMANPOUR: ... and lows.
OBAMA: ... take a shellacking like I did last night.
AMANPOUR: And this week is another defining moment for him, as he talks to the country.
OBAMA: Jobs must be our number-one focus in 2010.
AMANPOUR: But what will he say? And what should he say? This week, the state of the presidency, starts right now.
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AMANPOUR: Good morning. As President Obama enters the second half of his term, he's grappling with making the economy grow and creating jobs. Americans are overwhelmingly demanding in poll after poll that the president and Congress work together on the big issues.
Today, we'll hear from three top retiring senators with records of working across party lines, independent Joe Lieberman, Democrat Kent Conrad, and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison. We'll get their perspective on the state of the country and the state of this president.
We begin with ABC news senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper and our "This Week" cover story.
TAPPER (voice-over): We all know what the president will say about the state of the Union. It's what presidents always say about the state of the union.
OBAMA: Our union is strong.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Our union is strong.
CLINTON: ... is strong.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: ... is strong.
REAGAN: The state of our union is strong.
TAPPER: But what about the state of the Obama presidency? What about the state of Obama? Just two-plus months ago, after what he called a shellacking in the midterm elections, it seemed as though President Obama might now be in a crouched posture as the Republican House of Representatives takes office.
OBAMA: It feels bad.
TAPPER: But he's not feeling bad now. His poll numbers are up. Job approval is 54 percent, up 5 points from last month and 8 points from his career low in September. Perhaps even more striking, while in September Americans split 50 percent to 48 percent on whether President Obama understands the problems of people like you, that number is now overwhelmingly positive for the president by an 18-point margin, 58 percent to 40 percent.
AXELROD: The economy is growing. It is beginning to create jobs at a steadier and steadier clip. And I think the cumulative effect of all of that is positive and people are feeling better.
GIBBS: The American people would like to see Democrats and Republicans sit down at a table, be it here, be it there, and work through important solutions to the problems that face the American people. I think that's what the president wants to continue to do.
TAPPER: So more bipartisanship in action and tone.
GERGEN: Much of his bounce has come among independents. They are up the most sharply, and that's the group that was sort of soured on him. I think turning back toward the center, the kind of things he's done, working with Republicans across the aisle in the lame duck, you know, bringing -- sending signals that he really does want to work with the business community, and then the Tucson speech was judged to be extremely effective and resonated so well with the public.