President Obama and Vice President Biden will be coming to Tennessee this Friday, January 9. The details of where the event will be held remain murky with the White House stating they will be held in the Knoxville area of East Tennessee.
The stop is part of a series of events meant to tout Obama’s record ahead of the 2015 State of the Union. In addition to the event in Tennessee, Obama will be traveling to Arizona and Michigan highlighting steps he has taken unilaterally as part of his domestic economic agenda. The move comes on the heels of recent job approval polling that shows Obama at nearly 50 percent approval, nearly 10 points better than his election day approval ratings that arguably caused his party to suffer historic losses.
In this multi-state tour, Obama is also expected to outline some of the proposals he will be announcing at the State of the Union. Most of these proposals are expected to be unilateral actions in the form of executive orders. In Michigan, Obama is expected to tout the measures taken in 2009 to shore up the ailing auto industry. In Arizona, he is expected to outline the economic progress made thus far by the administration while also announcing new policies. In Tennessee, Obama is expected to announce the creation of a new college program as well as unspecified action on manufacturing jobs.
Why Obama chose Tennessee to make these announcements remains an open question, considering the president just visited The Volunteer State in December to talk about his recent executive action on immigration. The two other states being visited by Obama were both considered swing states in the 2012 presidential election.
One possible reason is Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush and is seen as a Republican that President Obama could work with on issues such as education. Recently, education has been a fairly bipartisan issue. Potential 2016 presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie has praised the president’s education policy. In 2001, House Speaker John Boehner, along with President George W. Bush and liberal stalwart Sen. Ted Kennedy, pushed through comprehensive education reform (i.e. No Child Left Behind). In a Congress that will likely be at loggerheads with the administration over the next two years, education is an obvious choice for congressional cooperation.
Neither Sen. Corker or Sen. Alexander have commented on the president’s visit, but for the December event Alexander stated, “The president is always welcome in Tennessee, where he can see for himself why Republican leadership has our state headed in the right direction.”
While Obama’s ability to work with a Republican Congress remains an open question, one question that will be answered in Tennessee is the tone Obama will take in the coming weeks and months.