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Days After SOTU Are Full of Lobbyist Feedback

Saul Loeb/AFP/Pool

The National Retail Federation spent weeks urging the White House to include in the president’s State of the Union address a plug for retail jobs along with domestic manufacturing ones.

Apparently, the president didn’t buy it.

“A lot of his speech was focused on the notion of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States,” said the retail group’s top lobbyist, David French. “Well, retailers haven’t left.”

Lobbyists obviously don’t get to write the State of the Union. But the White House did solicit advice from its liberal-leaning outside allies and heard plenty from industry groups such as the NRF. Though some groups were pleased to hear President Barack Obama give their priorities a boost and quickly dispatched press releases cheering him, others are now downplaying the address’s significance at all.

“It’s just one speech,” French said. “It’s a theme-setter and really not much more.”

While Obama may not have had much to say on the retail-jobs theme, he did include many mentions of education policy — not all of them welcomed by school lobbyists.

“So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” Obama said in his Tuesday night address. “Higher education can’t be a luxury — it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

The Association of American Universities’ Barry Toiv said his organization’s members are working on tuition costs but that it is particularly difficult for public universities whose states are in financial peril and are cutting funding.

“We’re certainly curious as to what [the president] is going to propose on Friday,” Toiv said. “There have been proposals in past years that would have harmed students by taking away their aid.”

On the other hand, Toiv said that the AAU’s members were happy Obama included a pitch for continued investment in scientific research.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel praised the president in a statement, which said, “President Obama’s bold vision offers both hope and help to Americans.”

And Wendy Puriefoy, president of the Public Education Network, said the president’s focus on education was very much needed.

“The president was on target in making clear the connection between a quality public education and a sound economy, and in underscoring the importance of staying in school, especially for poor kids,” Puriefoy said in a statement to Roll Call. “The president’s proposals are very much in line with our own priorities.”

The banking industry and the president, however, are less likely to agree on priorities. Obama had some sharp words for that sector.

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