In bad shape…Scared…In flux…On the brink.
That's how Republican members of the House of Representatives described the state of the union hours before President Obama is set to deliver his address to a joint session of Congress tonight.
Nearly every year, the president utters the familiar phrase: "The state of the union is…" followed by some glowing description of the country's performance. Only President Gerald Ford deviated from the norm, telling Americans in 1975 "that the state of the union is not good."
Last year, President Obama concluded his address by saying: "The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice, and tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong." Strong.
So what will the president say tonight? If it were up to House Republicans, his assessment would be more in line with Ford's: blunt.
One Tea Party-supported freshman Republican, Rep. Bobby Schilling of Illinois, says that the state of the union "is in bad shape" but he's hopeful that President Obama is "going to come up with some solutions and not a whole lot of finger pointing."
"To continue to divide the United States of America for political gain is wrong, and I hope that when we go there tonight we don't have that," Schilling said. "We've got a lot of problems in this country and he can't run on his record because he really has no good accomplishments that have helped fix the country."
House Speaker John Boehner predicted Americans will hear a campaign stump speech rather than a frank assessment of the country's performance.
"It sounds like we're going to see a rerun of what we've heard over the last three years: more spending, higher taxes and more regulations," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "The president's been in total campaign mode since Labor Day. Since the campaign apparently wrote the speech, I expect we'll hear a campaign speech."
Rep. Harold Rogers, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, says that the state of the union is "on the brink" and like Boehner he wishes the president "would stay away from campaigning and talk about the serious issues this country is facing."
"Unemployment is still through the sky, people are nervous and scared about the future, and I'd like to see him reassure us that he's going to stay away from politics and deal with the nation's severe problems," Rogers, R-Ky., suggested.
Republicans, like Rep. Cynthia Lummis, contend that the president's policies have failed to make a positive impact over the past three years, leading to 35 months of unemployment above 8 percent.
"The state of our union is that people are scared, that we spend too much money, and that the president's economic policies have failed," Lummis, R-Wyo., said. "I hope the president will lay out a different vision because his record over the last three years has been one of overspending, overregulation and failing our small business economy."
Another freshman, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., says the state of the union is "in flux" and uncertainty in the marketplace is preventing businesses from expanding.
"Unemployment is continuing to be at record levels since the Great Depression," Tipton said. "We've got a tax code, which nobody can figure out, which is driving businesses not to invest and be able to create jobs, to hold onto that money. So we've got a lot of challenges, not to mention the debt that we're facing right now."