In a bit of self-conscious stagecraft, President Obama has chosen Abraham Lincoln's birthday to deliver the State of the Union address. With his job approval ratings low, it's far from clear to me that President Obama can use tonight's address to advance his agenda at all. Certainly, by next year -- with elections approaching -- his address will mean little; even now, there's plenty of reason to be skeptical that it will advance the ball in any meaningful way.
After all, think of the President's previous SOTU's. Can anyone remember anything memorable about them? Joe Wilson shouted "You lie" during a healthcare address to Congress, not a SOTU. Perhaps Justice Alito shaking his head in (justified) dissent to the President's misrepresentation about Citizens United is the closest to a big moment at one of these pageants -- but that's hardly a comfort to anyone who is expecting this speech to further Obama's liberal agenda.
The fact is that President Obama has done a great job attacking his detractors, but he's performed significantly less well in actually rallying support for any policies of his own. It's almost impossible for me to believe that anything he says tonight will matter in 48 hours. By now, all but the lowest-information voters have figured out that the President seems more passionate about playing politics than doing the hard and serious work that's required to lead the country.