Analysis: Obama barrels into final act of presidency unbowed

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Analysis: Obama barrels into final act of presidency unbowed
US President Barack Obama hosts a 'surprise meeting' with people who wrote him personal letters throughout the year, and who will attend as guests at tonight's State of the Union address, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. Seated alongside Obama are: Victor Fugate (L) of Kansas City, Missouri; Rebekah Erler of Minneapolis, Minnesota (2nd L), Carolyn Reed (2nd R) of Denver, Colorado; and Katrice Mubiru (R), Woodland Hills, California. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Capitol police patrol the Capitol Hill in Washington on January 20, 2015 before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker polishes stanchions in Statuary Hall before the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama will on Tuesday demand a hostile Congress increase taxes on the rich, in a State of the Union address that sets the stage for coming election battles.AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman speaks to the press as US Republican Senator from West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito (L), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Republican Senator from Nebraska Deb Fisher (2nd R) look on at the Capitol in Washington,DC on January 20, 2015 hours before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama (C) meets with four of the letter writers who will join the first lady and Dr. Biden as guests of the Administration for tonight's State of the Union Address, in the White House on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama's State of the Union speech will include a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, and a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama meets with four of the letter writers who will join the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden at the State of the Union address, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Clockwise, foreground, from left are, Victor Fugate of Kansas City, Md., Rebekah Erler of Minneapolis, the president, Carolyn Reed of Denver and Katrice Mubiru of Woodland Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A worker moves stanchions before the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama will on Tuesday demand a hostile Congress increase taxes on the rich, in a State of the Union address that sets the stage for coming election battles. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with four of the letter writers who will join the first lady and Dr. Biden as guests of the Administration for tonight's State of the Union Address, in the White House on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama's State of the Union speech will include a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, and a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama is seen through a window of the Oval office as he meets with four of the letter writers who will join the first lady and Dr. Biden as guests of the Administration for tonight's State of the Union Address, in the White House on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama's State of the Union speech will include a proposal to increase taxes on the wealthy, and a proposal to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama hosts a 'surprise meeting' with people who wrote him personal letters throughout the year, and who will attend as guests at tonight's State of the Union address, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama hosts a 'surprise meeting' with people who wrote him personal letters throughout the year, and who will attend as guests at tonight's State of the Union address, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. Seated alongside Obama are: Victor Fugate (L) of Kansas City, Missouri and Rebekah Erler of Minneapolis, Minnesota (2nd L). AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press at the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2015 just hours before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Capitol police officers standing guard outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2015 where in just hours US President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the press at the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2015 just hours before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Joni Ernst, a newly elected senator from Iowa, rehearses the Republican party's response to US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Joni Ernst, a newly elected senator from Iowa, rehearses the Republican party's response to US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) practices the Republican response she will give after U.S. President Obama's State of the Union address, on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth and final State Of The Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The early morning sun begins to rise benhind the US Capitol building on January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening US President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth State Of The Union address to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) practices the Republican response she will give after U.S. President Obama's State of the Union address, on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth and final State Of The Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in the East Room of the White House on January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed Friday to help France and others defeat the threat of global terrorism with stronger cooperation and surveillance. In his first meeting with a foreign leader since last week's extremist attacks in Paris, Obama reaffirmed Washington's close ties with its 'indispensable ally' Britain and vowed both would support France.AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice (C) sits in the audience of a joint news conference conducted by U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron in the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cybersecurity, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron participate in a joint news conference at the East Room of the White House January 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. The two leaders had an Oval Office meeting earlier discussing bilateral issues including economic growth, international trade, cyber security, Iran, ISIL, counterterrorism, Ebola, and Russias actions in Ukraine. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron walk at the White House in Washington on January 15, 2015 prior to a working dinner. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama returns to the White House in Washington on January 15, 2015 after traveling to Baltimore where he met with Democratic senators at the Senate Democratic Issues Conference. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about increasing family leave for working Americans after having lunch at Charmington's Cafe in Baltimore, Maryland, January 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks about increasing family leave for working Americans with Mary Stein (R), Amanda Rothschild (2nd L) and Vika Jordan (L) after having lunch at Charmington's Cafe in Baltimore, Maryland, January 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office to Marine One while departing the White House January 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama is traveling to Baltimore MD. to meet with Senate Democrats during a private strategy retreat. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama signs a presidential memorandum on paid leave to federal employees in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on January 15, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WATERLOO, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama, joined by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and Cedar Falls Utilities General Manager Jim Krieg, arrives for a fiber-optic splicing demonstration during a visit to Cedar Falls Utilities on January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama spoke of plans to increase access to affordable high-speed broadband internet service across the nation. (Photo by Brandon Pollock-Pool/Getty Images)
WATERLOO, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama inspects a piece of fiber-optic cable during a visit to Cedar Falls Utilities on January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama spoke of plans to increase access to affordable high-speed broadband internet service across the nation. (Photo by Brandon Pollock-Pool/Getty Images)
WATERLOO, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to a packed room at Cedar Falls Utilities on January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama spoke of plans to increase access to affordable high-speed broadband internet service across the nation. (Photo by Brandon Pollock-Pool/Getty Images)
CEDAR FALLS, IA - JANUARY 14: U.S. President Barack Obama, greets employees and guests at the Cedar Falls Utilities office January 14, 2015 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Obama laid out new steps to increase access to affordable, high-speed broadband across the country. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama waves from the steps of Air Force One prior to departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, January 14, 2015. Obama is traveling to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to speak about increasing access to high speed and affordable internet. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets guests after speaking about increasing access to high speed and affordable internet at Cedar Falls Utilities in Cedar Falls, Iowa, January 14, 2015. The town of Cedar Falls has built their own private high-speed internet network and runs it like a public utility. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives alongside Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson (L) to speak about cybersecurity at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on January 13, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. President Obama discussed efforts to improve the government's ability to collaborate with industry to combat cyber threats. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) (R-KY) answers questions following a weekly policy luncheon with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. McConnell discussed a meeting he attended with U.S. President Barack Obama earlier in the day at the White Hous. Also pictured is Sen. John Thune (R) (R-SD). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as meets with congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss issues including the economy and the nationals security. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (3rd L), House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd L), and House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) listen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama met with congressional leaders to discuss issues including the economy and the nationals security. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) speaks alongside House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (L), Republican of California, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (2nd L), of California, Speaker of the House John Boehner (3rd L), Republican of Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (4th R), Republican of Kentucky, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (3rd ), Democrat of Illinois, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (2nd R), Republican of Texas, and Senator Chuck Schumer (R), Democrat of New York, prior to a meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, January 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) listens as members of the House Republican leadership speak at a press conference at the U.S Capitol on January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. Boehner and other members of the Republican congressional leadership are scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House later today. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Federal Trade Commissions offices, January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about his plan to improve confidence in technology by tackling identity theft and improving consumer and students privacy. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at the Federal Trade Commission January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama spoke about internet security and privacy. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Federal Trade Commissions offices, January 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about his plan to improve confidence in technology by tackling identity theft and improving consumer and students privacy. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's not just the State of the Union speech that President Barack Obama is turning on its head. It's the whole notion of a lame-duck president.

The president is barreling into the final two years of his presidency determined to hold his own and then some against resurgent Republicans.

He's rejecting any notion that he should be cowed by the midterm election results that gave the GOP a resounding victory. And while Obama has spoken of the need to find common ground with Republicans, in the 11 weeks since the November elections he's dished out seven veto threats - two of them on Tuesday, just before the speech - and has shown little sign of moving closer to the Republicans on specific policy proposals.

Breaking with tradition, the president dispensed with suspense and released the details of his State of the Union proposals well in advance of Tuesday night's speech to a joint session of Congress and millions of television viewers. With TV audiences for the annual speech shrinking, the White House decided to reinvent the State of the Union as weeks-long campaign rather than cede the spotlight for much of January to the Republicans.

Obama's proposals include higher taxes on the wealthy, making community college free for many students, expanding paid leave for workers and more - measures unlikely to find much Republican support.

But Obama has burst into a new year with unbounded confidence before, only to run smack into the same old Washington gridlock.

And indignant Republicans stand ready to offer the president a stern reality check this time around.

The new Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, pointedly referred back to the November elections results Tuesday. He said in advance of Obama's speech that he hoped the president would adopt a more conciliatory tone than "the path he's been on for so many years."

Asked whether it's possible to put tone aside and still be able to focus on areas ripe for agreement, McConnell said: "That's really a question you ought to ask the president. I think ever since the election he's ... indicated he's not for much of anything the American people voted for last November."

Whatever the hopeful rhetoric of his speech, Obama and his team have to know that his legislative proposals on tax increases for the wealthy, education and more have little chance of becoming law. And his recent burst of unilateral action on immigration, Cuba policy and other issues can only take him so far.

William Galston, a former Clinton administration official, thinks Obama is working two parallel tracks - a more confrontational path setting the stage for national elections in 2016, and a more conciliatory one aimed at getting things done in 2015.

The latter is less evident so far, but both sides have spoken of the potential for compromise on matters like trade, infrastructure and perhaps tax reform.

Says Galston: "The question for 2015 is whether the president and the Republican leaders will be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Will they be able to seal off the areas of guaranteed confrontation from the areas of possible cooperation?"

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EDITORS NOTE: Nancy Benac has covered Washington and politics for more than three decades for The Associated Press.

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