"This administration has ignored the problem for six years," Dean said in a statement. "Costs and the number of uninsured continue to skyrocket, yet the president's solution is to raise taxes on working families? Like so much of what the president proposes, this latest scheme fails to address the problem and actually makes health care less affordable for many Americans, while doing nothing to help insure those who cannot afford it."
The picture may not be as bleak for Bush on immigration reform, which reached fever pitch in Congress last year with legislation to construct a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and a guest worker plan.
"The details are tricky in building broad support for an approach to immigration," said Ornstein. "The crunch point is how much it costs, who goes home and who stays. It will take time and energy."
Despite a United Nations report this week saying that global warming is likely to raise atmospheric temperatures and cause economic and environmental crises, that issue is also not likely to gain bipartisan support, said observers.
The president's advisers hoped the president's new focus on domestic issues could strike a bipartisan tone. "The power of the ideas requires people to take notice and take seriously important domestic initiatives," White House counselor Dan Bartlett told The New York Times. "There will be key signals to the American people that despite disagreements over the war, other work can be done."
But many liberal voices are not reassured. "This is a failed administration speaking to the nation at the weakest point in his presidency, to a nation that is not only skeptical but has turned against the man they thought could help them in a crisis," said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine. "Tonight we will see a president building a domestic agenda after witnessing years of dangerous inaction on key issues."
But time is running out for the Bush administration as the 2008 presidential campaign revs up with no Republican heir apparent in the vice presidency.
"Probably nothing he will present tonight will pass Congress," said Robert Reich, co-founder of the American Prospect magazine and a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. "From what I can see, it's a grab bag intended to deflect attention from a massive failure in Iraq and to give a failing presidency a new sense of being relevant."