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State of the Response? Divided on Party Lines

Saul Loeb/AFP/Pool

It took less than five minutes for Republicans to begin taking apart President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

With Obama only a tenth of the way through the hourlong speech, Speaker John Boehner’s office slammed him over his position on the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Obama Keystone Decision Destroys Manufacturing and Construction Jobs, Surrenders Energy Security to China,” the Ohio Republican’s team charged in an email to reporters.

The hit, one of 14 blast emails sent during the address, was part of a rapid-response effort by Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that provided a real-time rebuttal to Obama’s speech and previewed his party’s post-address response.

It was a familiar ritual, but also a sign that Obama’s stated goal in the speech of overcoming Washington partisanship is dead on arrival. Republicans by and large criticized the president, saying the speech — which often sounded more like a stump speech than traditional State of the Union address — was divisive and full of tired ideas, while Democrats praised the speech’s tone and its specific policy proposals.

In a statement following the speech, Boehner hammered Obama.

“Unable to run on his record, the president has regrettably turned to blame and division when what’s needed is a united effort to promote small business job creation,” he said.

In a statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor echoed the criticism.

“What the American people heard tonight is that the President’s latest vision relies on the same failed policies that haven’t worked to recover the economy or get people back to work,” the Virginia Republican said.

“When something doesn’t work, you change it. Instead of continuing the failed policies of President Obama that we know don’t work, let’s try something new. We can do better,” he added.

House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) dismissed Obama’s rhetoric on jobs and the economy and accused the president of using the address to make a campaign pitch based on class warfare.

“It was just too little too late. More of the same,” Hensarling said. “We’ve got a president who can’t run on his record, so we heard a lot about the politics of division and envy.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann was also harsh in her criticism, arguing that Obama “needs to follow the Constitution, given to us by the founders, and its one true fairness guide — equal protection under the law.”

“America was not founded on redistribution of wealth, but on free markets and the idea that everyone is entitled to the fruits of their labors,” the Minnesota Republican said.

Other Republicans, however, took a more measured approach.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said that although he doesn’t mind optimism, the speech lacked specifics on how Obama would deal with jobs and unemployment issues.

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