Bush gives his 2007 State of the Union speech

By Tom Raum The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Bush faces long odds in trying to make headway in this divided-government town with his latest batch of domestic initiatives – even though many appear tailored to address longtime Democratic concerns.

Democrats, now the majority party in Congress, reacted coolly to Bush’s effort to regain control of the agenda with a handful of new and recycled State of the Union proposals on health care, energy, education and immigration.

Beyond fresh calls for bipartisanship from both sides, Bush faced skeptical lawmakers and a nation mired in an unpopular war, with the 2008 elections increasingly becoming a complicating factor.

In his address, he congratulated the new Democratic majority, singled out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for praise and called for bipartisanship. “Like many before us, we can work through our differences,” he said.

Many of the goals he outlined were “the kinds of things Democrats would generally support,” said Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University.

But for Bush, it’s likely to be a hard sell.

Polls suggest he failed to shift public opinion earlier this month when he outlined his plan to increase troop strengths in Iraq. And Democrats on Tuesday sought to keep attention on Iraq.

“We go into this process with no illusions about the atmosphere in which we’re operating in,” said White House counselor Dan Bartlett.

Perhaps Bush’s best shot at success is immigration overhaul. But then his proposal for a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship always had more support among Democrats than among fellow Republicans. Noting that “convictions run deep” on immigration, Bush urged a “serious, civil and conclusive debate” on the issue.