President Barack Obama will deliver a final State of the Union address Tuesday brimming with optimism - far more than most Americans possess.
After six years of pitching ambitious proposals in his annual speech to Congress, Obama plans to take a rhetorical step back this year as he opens the final stretch of his presidency, in which he has less control over the nation's political agenda than ever before. By returning to the hopeful tenor of his two presidential campaigns, Obama also hopes to give voice to themes that Democrats can embrace in their campaigns to replace him and win back control of Congress.
"The president's optimism about the country is not because he isn't concerned about the future," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. "His optimism about the country is characterized by his confidence in the American people and our country to overcome those challenges, and just as importantly, to capitalize on the opportunities that exist."
But the country Obama has led for the last seven years doesn't always see it the same way.
Seven in 10 Americans said they see the U.S. heading in the wrong direction, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last month. That's a marked decline from just two months earlier, and an even steeper fall compared to the first year of Obama's presidency, when less than half said in July 2009 that the U.S. was heading down the wrong path.