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GOP Presidential Candidates Criticize Obama's State Of The Union Address


President Obama took his State of the Union message on the road today. He traveled to Omaha, Neb. That is just over the river from Iowa which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses in less than three weeks. The President's speech and the Republican response last night highlight different between the two parties as well as fault lines within the GOP. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama appealed for more compromise and common ground in his State of the Union address, but he quickly added, Americans don't have to agree on everything. He pointed to sharp disagreements over the best way to battle ISIS and the government's role in regulating the economy. Americans have a choice to make in November, he said, and he spelled out the case for his side.


BARACK OBAMA: After years now of record corporate profits, working families won't get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else's expense.


HORSLEY: In the GOP response to the president's speech, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley made the opposite case for putting a Republican in the Oval Office.


NIKKI HALEY: If we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families, and we'd put the brakes on runaway spending and debt.

HORSLEY: But Obama and Haley found common cause in their shared criticism of GOP candidate Donald Trump. While neither called out Trump by name, Obama took aim at Trump's call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. He said voters should reject any policy that targets people for their race or religion.


OBAMA: This is not a matter of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.

HORSLEY: Haley, who's the daughter of immigrants from India, warned against wide-open borders, but she also called out Trump's tough anti-immigrant rhetoric. She cautioned voters against the tendency to confuse noise with results.


HALEY: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

HORSLEY: A White House spokesman praised Haley this afternoon for what he called her courageous willingness to speak out against Trump's fiery rhetoric. Establishment Republicans have long argued their party needs to pitch a bigger tent if it hopes to recapture the White House in November. Jeb Bush told MSNBC, Haley's comments are a good start.


JEB BUSH: She did an extraordinary job, and I think she talked about a more broader, hopeful, optimistic Republican message, a conservative message that draws people, the great diversity of our country, towards our cause. That's how you win.

HORSLEY: But Trump and other Republicans are not impressed. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted that Haley missed her opportunity to stand with working people who want borders enforced. Trump himself told Fox News, South Carolina voters are more aligned with his position on immigration than with their governor's.


DONALD TRUMP: By the way, I have a massive lead in South Carolina. We have a massive lead, and it's - they're incredible people. And I - and they feel like I do. Believe me because they don't like what's happening in our country.

HORSLEY: Governor Haley is considered a rising star in the GOP, and she's been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate. Trump warns she's not likely to make his short list though, should he wind up as the GOP nominee.


TRUMP: I wouldn't say she's off to a good start based on what she has just said, so you know, let's see what happens. We'll pick somebody, but we'll pick somebody who's very good. But whoever I pick is also going to be very strong on illegal immigration. We've had it with illegal immigration.

HORSLEY: Haley stood by her remarks today, saying if the country's going to move forward together, we all have to look in the mirror. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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