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Obama's State of Union speech to spotlight economy

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By From Wire and Online Reports
Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 8:48 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Obama will concentrate on the economy, shifting the emphasis away from the broad social agenda of his second inaugural address to refocus attention on a set of problems that vexed his first term.

“A lot of people think the State of the Union is empty rhetoric, but it's full of specific requests,” said Robert Lehrman, a former speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore and a communications professor at American University. “It's not only the state of the union, but the state of the Obama administration.”

The president outlined his second-term agenda in an inaugural speech last month that infuriated Republicans for its full-throated embrace of liberalism.

“The early themes of the second term have been focused on the constituent groups that helped get the president re-elected,” a Democratic strategist with close ties to the White House told Major Garrett, a former Fox reporter who is chief White House correspondent for CBS News.

In the State of the Union, the president will not ignore gun control, immigration reform and climate change. For example, Obama told immigrant advocates and labor leaders that he'll call for rewriting immigration laws in his address, and he told House Democrats that it was a “top priority and an early priority.”

Several senior administration officials involved in the speech told The Washington Post that he will use his fourth State of the Union address to talk about jobs. The unemployment rate ticked up last month.

The president will propose ways to make college more affordable.

And, the officials said, he will argue for the need to spend public money — on research, on roads, on education — to prepare Americans for a world in which a warming climate, a nomadic labor force and new technology are shutting doors and opening new ones across the national economy.

“Our single biggest remaining challenge is to get our economy in a place where the middle class is feeling less squeezed, where incomes sustain families,” said a senior administration official who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to describe the address based on drafts, marked up with highlighters, that were circulating among senior staff members late last week.

“This project is not complete, by any means,” the official added.

This year's speech marks the 100th anniversary of the State of the Union.

Although George Washington was the first president to address Congress, speeches soon were scrapped in favor of the written word. Woodrow Wilson, however, reinstituted the in-person delivery to Congress in 1913, a custom that has continued ever since.

McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this report.

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