WASHINGTON - President Obama will focus his State of the Union address on boosting job creation and economic growth at a time of high unemployment, underscoring the degree to which the economy could threaten his ability to pursue second-term priorities such as gun control, immigration policy, and climate change.
Obama also may use Tuesday's prime-time address before a joint session of Congress to announce the next steps for concluding the war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Obama's State of the Union marks his second high-profile speech to the nation in about three weeks, after his inaugural address Jan. 21 that opened his second term. White House aides see the two speeches as complementary, with Tuesday's address aimed at providing specifics to back up some of the Inauguration Day's lofty liberal rhetoric.
The president previewed the address during a meeting Thursday with House Democrats and said he would speak "about making sure that we're focused on job creation here in the United States of America." Obama said he would try to accomplish that by calling for improvements in education, boosting clean energy production, and reducing the deficit in ways that don't burden the middle class, the poor, or the elderly.
While those priorities may be cheered by some Democrats, they are certain to be met with skepticism or opposition from many congressional Republicans, especially in the GOP-controlled House. The parties are at odds over ways to reduce the deficit. Republicans favor spending cuts; Obama prefers a combination of spending cuts and increasing tax revenue.
The president said he would address taxes and looming budget cuts, known as the sequester, in the speech. The White House and Congress have pushed back the automatic cuts once, and Obama wants to do it again in order to create an opening for a larger deficit reduction deal.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising Republican star and potential 2016 presidential candidate, will deliver the GOP response following Obama's address to Congress.