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Obama to Deliver Second State of the Union Address

US President Obama (file photo)
US President Obama (file photo)

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President Barack Obama delivers his second State of the Union Address to the nation on Tuesday, before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.  

President Barack Obama will face a dramatically altered balance of power in the House of Representatives when he addresses Congress and the nation Tuesday in his State of the Union address.

Republicans are now in the majority in the House, and they have already approved a repeal of Mr. Obama's landmark reform of the U.S. health care system.  The move was symbolic, since the bill will die in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats and Independents still hold a majority.

Presidents traditionally use State of the Union addresses to assess the nation's condition, on everything from the economy to foreign policy.  They also use the speech to lay out agendas - and often propose new ideas, or changes in thinking they want Americans to consider.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says Mr. Obama is likely to focus on efforts to repair the economy.

"The steps that the president believes our country has to take to continue that economic recovery, steps that we need to take in the short term that relate to jobs, and steps that we need to take in the medium and long term to put our fiscal house in order and to increase our competitiveness and our innovation that allows us to create the jobs of tomorrow," said Gibbs.

Mr. Obama goes into this national speech enjoying a substantial positive bump in public approval ratings.  This is due to legislative victories, including some made possible by his controversial compromise with Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans while extending government unemployment benefits

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us," said Obama.

Brighter approval ratings are also due to what Americans view as Obama's skilled handling of a speech honoring the victims of recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona, in which he urged more civility in the national discourse.

Political analyst John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute says had the president delivered the State of the Union Address directly after last November's mid-term congressional elections, he would be in a weaker position.

But compromises he struck with Republicans have positioned him as someone pursuing a new pragmatism, something Americans appreciate.

"You do see the president already having some indication that he is moving to the middle, that he has a kind of pragmatism," noted Fortier.

This State of the Union Address comes as nearly 150,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq, with opinion polls showing the Afghan war extremely unpopular among Americans.    Mr. Obama will again pay tribute to the sacrifices of the military.

Whatever the themes of the address, it's all but confirmed that President Obama intends to stand for re-election.

With a re-tooled White House staff helping to further cement his image as a political moderate rather than a far left liberal, and deal with strengthened Republican control of Congress, he is already establishing the political machinery for 2012.

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