Addressing a demand for economic answers, President Barack Obama will try to convince the American people and a divided Congress that he has a vision for speeding up job creation, promoting spending on the core of his agenda but promising to rein in a growing, staggering debt. His State of the Union address will reflect reality: The economy trumps all.
To a nationwide television audience Tuesday night, Obama will home in on jobs, the issue of most importance to the public and to his hopes for a second term.
Specifically, he will focus on improving the education, innovation and infrastructure of the United States as the way to provide a sounder economic base. He will pair that with calls to reduce the government's debt - now topping $14 trillion - and reform government. Those five areas will frame the speech, with sprinklings of fresh proposals.
Yet no matter how ambitious Obama's rhetorical reach, his speech at the halfway point of his term will be viewed in the context of his new political reality.
The midterm elections gave Republicans control of the House and a stronger minority vote in the Senate, meaning he hasn't the option of pushing through changes over GOP objections. The contrast between the two parties' visions remains stark, and where to slash spending, and by how much, will drive much of the debate for the rest of 2011.