Scott Brown’s imprint felt in State of the Union

By Jessica Van Sack and Hillary Chabot

President Obama never mentioned him by name, but Republican rising star Scott Brown – and his game-changing Senate victory last week – loomed large over the hourlong State of the Union address last night.

“Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved,” Obama said. “But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year.”

Obama had hoped that passage of his historic health-care overhaul would be the centerpiece of his first State of the Union speech – and the launching pad to reviving his presidency.

But Brown’s Jan. 19 win gave Republicans the 41st vote to block the legislation.

So it was back to the drawing board for the 44th president.

“By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year,” Obama said. “Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up.”

Without a health-care victory to tout, Obama focused on job creation, proposing a $30 billion small-business bailout and urging Congress not to “walk away” from health-care reform.

Addressing a recession-weary nation and with the U.S. unemployment rate at 10 percent, Obama acknowledged the electorate’s rising anger and angst.

“Some are frustrated; some are angry,” Obama said. “They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it. Not now.”

Brown released a statement, saying he was “pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge our economy must be a national priority” and added “I applaud him for taking some important first steps.”

But Obama wasn’t ready to give up his health-care crusade.

“I took on health care because of the stories I’ve heard from . . patients who’ve been denied coverage, and families – even those with insurance who are just one illness away from financial ruin,” Obama said. “After nearly a century of trying, we are closer than ever to bringing more security to the lives of so many Americans.”

But not as close as Democrats were before Brown’s win.

“I know it’s an election year,” Obama said. “And after last week, it is clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual.”

That Brown went unmentioned was hardly surprising. The Democrats’ shocking loss of the iconic seat once held by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is not one that Obama wanted to rehash.  More…

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