News / USA

Obama: 'Big Ideas' in Economy-Focused State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama at a campaign event, at the Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, January 19, 2012.
President Barack Obama at a campaign event, at the Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, January 19, 2012.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union Address on Tuesday to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.  Mr. Obama hopes to point the way forward for the nation's economic recovery, frame the political debate with opposition Republicans and make a strong case to Americans to reelect him this year.

This will be Mr. Obama's third State of the Union Address.  Each to a great extent has been dominated by the economic crisis he inherited from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and his own efforts to promote jobs and economic growth.

The political stakes are high in a presidential election year.  Americans will choose in November between giving Mr. Obama four more years in office and one of the current Republican contenders who say Mr. Obama has spent enough time in the White House.

National unemployment, now at 8.5 percent, is falling but not as quickly as Mr. Obama had hoped.  Although he came to office urging an end to contentious Washington politics, he has struggled with Republicans seeking to block his economic initiatives.

Mr. Obama provided a glimpse of what he will say Tuesday night in a video outlining what he calls a blueprint for an economy “built to last” focused on new proposals in manufacturing, clean energy and education.

It will be based on key themes he sounded last year in a speech, stressing the importance of the middle class, and of fair play in the economy.

"This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and folks trying to work their way into the middle class because we can go in two directions," said President Obama. "One is towards less opportunity and less fairness.  Or we can fight for where I think we need to go - building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few."

Mr. Obama will likely again reach out to Republicans, but will contrast his vision for the future with theirs.  He faces more battles with Republican lawmakers in coming months over efforts to reduce federal deficit spending and taxes.

Remarks by House of Representatives Speaker, Republican John Boehner, who appeared on the "Fox News Sunday" television program, suggest that the political tension will continue.

"The president's policies have failed to get our economy moving again, and as a matter of fact it is the president's policies that have actually made our economy worse," said Boehner.

Congress is also under pressure.  A recent Washington Post/ABC News public opinion poll shows that 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job U.S. lawmakers are doing.

Mr. Obama’s political strategy will continue targeting what he calls a dysfunctional Congress.  But Press Secretary Jay Carney says the president is ready to work with congressional Republicans.

"We disagree with that premise that we can't get anything done just because it is an election year," said Carney. "I don't think the American people want that to be true or would be happy if that were true."

Among those listening closely to Mr. Obama will be former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich who used his victory speech after the recent South Carolina Republican primary vote to portray Mr. Obama as a radical.

"This is the most important election of our lifetime," said Gingrich. "If Barack Obama can get reelected after this disaster, just think how radical he would be in a second term."

President Obama will likely list what he considers his key accomplishments:  health care reform, tightening regulations on Wall Street and the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden along with the end of the Iraq War and staying on course for America's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Political analysts and media pundits will watch closely to see what affect this year's address will have on Mr. Obama's public approval ratings, which, according to the Gallup polling Organization, have averaged about 44 percent this year.

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