President Obama's State of the Union address will focus on manufacturing and job creation Tuesday night but because he's governing over a divided Congress in an election year, it will largely set the stage for a year of gridlock and bickering.
Substantively, the speech will focus on domestic energy production, boosting manufacturing and training workers, reports Bloomberg. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the speech will include “the principles that President Obama has brought to public service since he began his career in public service." Specifically, White House adviser David Plouffe tells MJ Lee the president will lay out a plan that makes rich Americans pay more taxes. But since his legislative agenda will likely be stymied by GOP opposition, his speech won't likely reflect the actual legislative priorities of Congress in the coming year.
"The real importance of the State of the Union is that it lays out the White House's agenda for the next year," writes The Washington Post's Ezra Klein. "But that matters more in years when the White House has some chance of passing its agenda through Congress than in years when it doesn't." So what will Congress's 2012 agenda actually look like?
Politico's David Rogers reports that small-bore issues will dominate such as extending the payroll tax holiday and approving a $16.5 billion spectrum auction. "The challenge is to find a way not just to finance a full-year extension of the payroll tax but also to renew expiring benefits for the long-term unemployed and restore some stability to Medicare reimbursements for physicians who care for the elderly," Rogers writes.
"Almost by definition it's going to be at least as much a political speech as a governing speech," Bill Galston, a former Clinton administration domestic policy adviser tells Fox News. "The president must run on his record and that means talking candidly and persuasively with the country about the very distinctive nature of the challenges the American economy faced when he took office and what has gone right for the past three years, and what needs to be done in addition."
OK. So the speech will be highly political and won't reflect what Congress will actually do next year. But that doesn't mean it's not worth watching. Mainly because of the importance of the president's executive power, which he may explain what he'll do with it. According to The Washington Post, more presidential recess appointments are slated to be announced in tonight's speech. Second reason to watch? "Obama is up for reelection this year -- perhaps you've heard?," writes Ezra Klein. "And tonight's speech is likely to offer the first widely watched instance of the president setting up the contrast between him and his opponents. Expect that part of the speech to borrow heavily from his address in Osawatomie, Kansas."