WASHINGTON – The White House and outside supporters of President Barack Obama are launching simultaneous social media, public outreach and fundraising campaigns tied to today's State of the Union address.
The efforts will concentrate on key issues Obama will raise in his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress: jobs and the budget, gun control, immigration and climate change. The wide-ranging outreach reflects a decision by the president and his advisers to focus more on using public support to pressure Congress rather than getting bogged down in partisan fights with lawmakers.
It's unclear whether the tactics – many of which were successful in helping Obama win two presidential elections – will be effective in pushing the president's second-term agenda. Many of the proposals he will press for Tuesday night, including using increased revenue to bring down the deficit and banning military-style assault weapons, face strong opposition from congressional Republicans, as well as some Democrats.
The White House will focus on using social media to engage the public on the proposals Obama will outline during the annual State of the Union address. Officials invited 100 people who follow the administration on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to watch the speech from the White House and then participate in an online panel when Obama wraps up.
The White House will also stream an enhanced version of the address online that will incorporate graphics and data to complement Obama's rhetoric. Senior administration advisers on the economy, climate change and other issues will also answer questions online following the speech and throughout the week.
Immediately following today's address, Obama will hold a conference call with supporters attending State of the Union watch parties hosted by Organizing for Action, an outside group backing the president. The president will personally join the social media effort Thursday during an online discussion on Google, known as a "hangout."
Organizing for Action is an offshoot of Obama's presidential campaign and is run by several of his former campaign advisers. The newly formed organization, which has access to the Obama campaign's coveted donor and voter database, is using the State of the Union as a fundraising opportunity and will send out its first email to supporters asking for money following the address.
OFA officials outlined their State of the Union plans during a conference call with former staffers and volunteers Sunday night.
They said they would be particularly focused in the coming weeks on building support for the president's proposals for reducing gun violence and averting automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester.
OFA officials are planning two "national days of action," one focused on gun violence on Feb. 22 and another centered on the budget in early March. Jon Carson, the group's executive director, told supporters that Obama would also issue a "call to action on climate change" during the State of the Union, though he offered no specific details on what that would entail.
The president will still embark on the traditional post-State of the Union travel, with trips planned Wednesday to Asheville, N.C., Thursday to Atlanta, and Friday to Chicago. The stops are expected to center on Obama's proposals for boosting jobs and the economy, though officials said he would also discuss gun violence in his hometown of Chicago.