President Bush's final State of the Union address before both houses of Congress this Monday continues a long-standing tradition in the relations between the executive and legislative branches of the United States government. This year's nationally-televised address comes as several key issues are foremost in the minds of many Americans. VOA's Robert Raffaele explains.

President Bush faces continuing concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and unsettled world financial markets.

The White House is pressing Congress to approve an economic stimulus package, and the president has praised the bipartisan support he's getting on Capitol Hill.

"I think the three big issues President Bush will talk about in the State of the Union will be, first, the Iraq War -- he'll talk about all the progress being made," says Brian Darling, a congressional analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He adds, "I think the second big issue that will come up is obviously the economy, (which) is a huge issue, and the President's $145 billion stimulus package. And I'm sure there will be quite a bit of discussion about an issue that has been very important to the President -- global warming and the issue of America's dependence on foreign oil."

Candice Nelson is a chairwoman in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington. She says upcoming Congressional elections and Mr. Bush's low public opinion poll numbers present him with a tough challenge. "You know, things aren't going so well in Iraq -- you know a little better, but not great. So he really has to figure out what he can do to focus, to really focus, the attention of the Congress and the American public. And my guess is that he leads with the stimulus package, because that's something that they've been able to do very quickly on a bipartisan basis."

But with less than one year remaining in office, does Mr. Bush still exert influence on shaping his agenda?

Brian Darling says the president is still relevant as commander-in-chief, in urging politicians in Iraq and Afghanistan to work harder toward achieving lasting stability in their respective nations. But Darling says Mr. Bush's work is cut out for him in the legislative arena.

"I think the president's realistic about the fact that this is his last year and that he is a lame duck and he has to work with Democrat [Democratic Party] leaders in Congress to accomplish anything so we will see bipartisan initiatives maybe on climate change, maybe on further economic initiatives to stimulate the economy, and hopefully on some efforts to extend the Protect America Act, or some aspects of it, to help the president with his tools in the global war on terror," Darling said. 

Candice Nelson says Mr. Bush has to make a convincing argument for his remaining legislative agenda. "He's got to make the case now, which he didn't have to do following the 2004 election, when he said, 'I've got some [political] capital, I'm going to spend it.' He doesn't have any capital anymore."

Governor Kathleen Sebelius of the midwestern U.S. state of Kansas will deliver the Democratic Party's response to the president's address.

Under the terms of the U.S. Constitution, an American president must communicate from time to time with Congress on the state of the union and on other issues he considers necessary and expedient. The Constitution gives no further guidance, but the presidential State of the Union address has been an annual political ritual for many years.