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'We were talking about that last emotional note': NBC News correspondents on Obama's speech

NBC's Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd and David Gregory discuss President Barack Obama's push for a vote on gun control at the end of his State of the Union address.

President Barack Obama's emotional call for a congressional vote on gun control during Tuesday night's State of the Union address struck many in the House chamber as a powerful moment, including NBC News' top correspondents, who also picked up on significant points in the president's remarks on the economy and North Korea.

Brian Williams
Anchor and managing editor of 'NBC Nightly News' and 'Rock Center with Brian Williams'

This is ... part of the backdrop of gun violence and public violence that kind of formed the backdrop for the president to come into that chamber tonight. Someone mentioned on social media tonight that immediately after the speech, we weren't talking about the economy. We were talking about that last emotional note.


Chuck Todd
NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent 

To me, it was a tale of a couple of speeches. You had a very run-of-the-mill State of the Union where he was putting together agenda item after agenda item that sounded like the campaign, that was very well focus-grouped, very well poll-tested — minimum wage, pre-K, things that people care about at home, education and jobs. And then, I have to say, the entire tone of the speech changed there at the end. It was just incredibly emotional. You don't find many State of the Unions that have moments like that. He's had to do a State of the Union right after the Gabby Giffords shooting that had some emotional moments, but that was something else, and, boy, did he put his entire weight behind guns in a way that I don't think a lot of people expected.

Savannah Guthrie
Co-anchor of TODAY and NBC News chief legal correspondent

To be crass about it, he played the best card he had in a very difficult political fight — the emotion card. Here he is in a hall full of people who have been directly affected by gun violence, and yet he faces an uphill battle. He's hoping that the tragedy of Newtown — that still-searing scar that this country has — will change the political calculus. But it's not just Republicans he has to deal with to get a coalition to enact some kind of gun legislation. He's got to get conservative Democrats, conservative members of his own party from red states, many of whom are facing re-election or are advocates of gun rights and gun ownership. ...

It's the calendar that's the enemy right now. The farther away you get from Newtown, the more difficult this task becomes.

David Gregory
Moderator, 'Meet the Press'

How does government work to make the economy better? That's the big challenge of his second term. Boy, there was a shot across the bow of Republicans tonight when, in effect, he said obsessing about the deficit (and) deficit reduction is not a plan for economic growth. ...

He said, the president did, it's not a bigger government we need but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth. And who did he mention quite a lot tonight? Apple. Siemens. CEOs. The business community.

Kelly O'Donnell
NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent

During the emotional part, where the president was referring to potential gun reforms, Gabby Giffords and her family, about 5 to 7 feet behind me, were standing — she was applauding with difficulty with her right hand. ... There was one moment where I just happened to catch it where a woman was shouting the name of a young woman and saying she deserves a vote.

Andrea Mitchell
NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent

There was a clear warning to North Korea, but it was an empty warning. Unless China jumps in with heavy sanctions, which is unlikely, there is no further punishment of North Korea that the Western allies can enact.

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