Reporters were perched above the president tonight. Sen. John McCain, bless him, was the only one to wave our way.
After the House settled down, Vice President Biden entered to applause. He was followed by Leader McConnell and Sen. Jon Kyl, who were in turn followed by Sens. John Kerry and McCain. The pair of former presidential candidates then took a pair of seats together down front.
The president made a smooth entrance — he even reached out to Rep. Michele Bachmann, who wasn’t within easy handshake distance. Sen. Tom Coburn got a warm hug. Freshman Jaime Herrera Beutler, a young Republican from Washington State, earned a big presidential grin. Sen. Pat Toomey, looking dapper, took a seat front-and-center, his knees on the back of the Supreme Court row — he got a solid Obama grip. The president also made sure to reach out to Kerry. Other aisle folks included Rep. Louie Gohmert, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Jean Schmidt, Rep. Kristi Noem, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
The award for most alert SOTU-watcher goes to Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. The GOP freshman had his arm crocked up, his eyes alert, and shoulders thrust forward. On the other end, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a few feet away, appeared to nod off, just a bit, at a couple junctures.
On the right side of the chamber, Team Obama stood, their arms crossed, faces serious — David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Valerie Jarrett. In the center-back, Rep. Jim Jordan sat next to progressive Sen. Sherrod Brown, but at least Sen. Rob Portman, a fiscal hawk, was nearby.
The most buzzed group was the trio of New Yorkers on the right — Rep. Peter King in the center, flanked by Rep. Anthony Weiner and Rep. Charlie Rangel — but Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Al Franken came close. Other duos of note: Sen. Scott Brown and Sen. Tom Carper, Rep. Fred Upton and Rep. John Dingell. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, clearly enjoying the moment, also drew some looks in the back-left outside the GOP cloakroom.