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What to Expect: State of the Union Address Preview

As Erika wrote about yesterday, President Barack Obama will take the podium tonight at 9:00 p.m. and deliver his third State of the Union address to tens of millions of Americans. According to an official White House preview video released a few days ago, the President will essentially build on the themes of his Osawatomie, Kansas speech -- concentrating on topics ranging from economic inequality to education reform.


“In a lot of ways my address on Tuesday will be a bookend to what I said in Kansas last month about the central mission we have as a country and my central focus as president,” he said. “That’s rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded and an America where everyone get a fair share shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

“This is a make or break moment for the middle class,” he continued. “We can go in two directions. One is towards less opportunity and less fairness, or we can fight for where we want to go -- building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

Indeed, an estimated 43 million people watched his State of the Union address in 2011. And, considering this is an election year, the stakes will be even higher tonight. Republicans, of course, are expecting a speech that is unapologetically populist, as the President tries to paint himself as an advocate for the middle class by denigrating “millionaires and billionaires” and calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. Certainly, he will use the spotlight to deflect attention away from his failed economic record, most likely opting instead to engage in the politics of envy and class warfare.

To be sure, the President will offer a number of proposals to jumpstart the economy tonight. According to the White House, he will speak at length about the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back home from overseas and lessening our dependence on foreign oil by investing in alternative energy resources. Moreover, he will discuss ways to make middleclass Americans more competitive in the marketplace -- underscoring the need for federal jobs training programs and education opportunities for all.


And yet, for what it’s worth, there are number of things to watch out for tonight. First, the President will almost certainly make an unambiguous pitch to court Independents. All recent polls suggest that droves of voters under the age of 30, for example, are disenchanted with the Obama administration’s failure to grow the economy and create jobs. The youth vote, after all, was crucial to his victory in 2008 – and in order for the President to secure his reelection – he will be forced to make a direct and nuanced plea to a different, albeit equally important, constituency.

As might be expected, I suspect he will also craft a campaign narrative pitting himself against a do-nothing and uncompromising Congress. While his approval ratings have soared to as high as 48 percent recently, the approval ratings of Congress have sunk to historic lows. By accentuating this contrast, I think, President Obama can shape his populist argument for reelection, and therefore, put the Republican nominee and Members of Congress on the defensive come November.

Above all, however, this will first and foremost be a campaign speech. Until now, perhaps, President Obama has been unable to speak to such a large and engaged audience of likely voters. His address, in other words, will likely tout his accomplishments and include a litany of reasons why he deserves four more years in the White House. (Incidentally, this speech could be excruciatingly painful to watch!)


In any event, stay tuned afterwards since Guy will write a recap and analyze the President’s remarks. Also, as usual, the Townhall/Hot Air team will be live tweeting tonight, so be sure to a follow along with us and leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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