WASHINGTON (AP) — Addressing a divided nation amid a determined GOP campaign to take his job, President Barack Obama is preparing to issue a populist cry for economic fairness as he aims to corral the sympathies of middle-class voters 10 months before Election Day.
Obama delivers his third State of the Union address Tuesday in a capital and country shot through with politics, with his re-election campaign well under way and his potential GOP opponents lobbing attacks against him daily as they scrap for the right to take him on.
Obama's 9 p.m. EST address to a joint session of Congress and millions of television viewers will be as much as anything an argument for his re-election, the president's biggest, best chance so far to offer a vision for a second term.
Senior political adviser David Plouffe said Tuesday morning the president is "happy to have a debate" about his performance. Asked in an interview about Republican candidate Newt Gingrich's description of Obama as the "food stamp president," Plouffe replied, "It's a cheap applause line for the Republican base."
Bill Galston, a former Clinton administration domestic policy adviser now at the Brookings Institution, said, "Almost by definition it's going to be at least as much a political speech as a governing speech."
"The president must run on his record," Galston said, "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."
What are the most important issues for President Obama to address in tonight's SOTU address? Should he take Gingrich's jabs head-on or just ignore them?