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Obama's State of the Union: A viewer's guide
On Tuesday night, the president will spell out his prescription for America's ills, and makes the case for his re-election. A look at what to expect
Political prognosticators expect President Obama's third State of the Union address to be a campaign-style populist pitch that hammers a "do-nothing Congress."
Political prognosticators expect President Obama's third State of the Union address to be a campaign-style populist pitch that hammers a "do-nothing Congress."
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool/Corbis
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resident Obama will deliver his third State of the Union address at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night, pitching initiatives on jobs, taxes, and housing in what political strategists say will be a "sweeping case for a second term." In a preview of the speech posted on his campaign website, Obama said he would present a "blueprint" for lasting economic prosperity, calling 2012 a "make-or-break moment for the middle class and folks trying to work their way into the middle class." What exactly will Obama say, and how will his message be received? Here, a five-point map of what to expect:

1. The speech will be a campaign-style populist appeal
Obama's State of the Union address will be a "starkly populist speech," says Matt Spetalnick at Reuters, in which the president will hammer themes he has already hit on the campaign trail. He'll "push tax breaks for bringing manufacturing jobs home from overseas, ideas to help the troubled home-mortgage market," and he'll probably make another call for higher taxes on the rich. Absolutely, says Obama advisor David Plouffe. "Warren Buffett famously" said that "he should not pay less in taxes than his secretary does," and you can bet that Obama will specifically outline his proposed "Buffet rule" on Tuesday night. 

2. Obama will confront a "do-nothing Congress"
"President Obama has spent the past three months railing against a 'do-nothing Congress,'" says Devin Dwyer at ABC News, and his annual address before a joint session of Congress gives him "the opportunity to deliver his message face to face." Obama will insist his economic agenda deserves bipartisan support, a pointed reference to his GOP rivals. And with 43 million Americans expected to tune in, he'll get to deliver his message to an audience bigger than any on the campaign trail.

3. The GOP will get a look at what might have been
With the GOP primaries becoming a heated duel between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post, Tuesday night will provide the party's voters a glimpse "of what could have been. Namely, Mitch Daniels." The Indiana governor, who briefly considered his own run for the presidency last year, will deliver his party's State of the Union response. Daniels "always has been the adult in the room," an unflinching but pragmatic conservative. Maybe he'll "serve as a good example for presidential campaigns that seem headed for the lowest common denominator."

4. Obama will have a chance to honor Gabrielle Giffords
Before stepping down from Congress to focus on her recovery from a near-fatal gunshot wound, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) will attend Obama's speech. "Obama last year delivered his State of the Union just weeks after the Tucson massacre and in the presence of victims' family members," says The Washington Post in an editorial. "Yet he, like so many politicians intimidated by the gun lobby's muscle, could not muster a single word about the need for reasonable gun control measures to ward off such violence in the future. Perhaps he will find the courage to speak up this year." It would make for a fitting prime-time tribute to Giffords before she leaves Congress.

5. One of Obama's political enemies won't even show up
One person who won't be in the audience is Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), "who found himself in hot water last summer when he used the term 'tar baby'" in reference to Obama, says Seung Min Kim at Politico. Lamborn apologized for that comment, which he made to emphasize that he didn't want to engage with Obama at all, because then "you're stuck, and you're part of the problem now, and you can't get away." He's apparently avoiding the State of the Union for a similar reason. "Lamborn is doing this to send a clear message that he does not support the policies of Barack Obama, that they have hurt our country," his spokeswoman, Catherine Mortensen, tells Politico in an email.

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