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Gunning for economic growth: Capitol preps for State of the Union

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013 1:25 p.m. MST

President Barack Obama looks towards reporters shouting questions as he walks down the West Wing Colonnade of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, ahead of tonight's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press) President Barack Obama looks towards reporters shouting questions as he walks down the West Wing Colonnade of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, ahead of tonight's State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press)

With Syria and Mali in flames, the economy still fragile and gun control debates raging, President Obama's State of the Union promises to give a look at his policy agenda for the next term.

Writing for CNN, Princeton history professor Julian Zelizer urged the president to "go big" and recited a long list of troubles from the economy to immigration that require leadership.

"The climate also remains in peril," Zelizer added, "as the wild weather patterns of the past year have shown. At the same time, Americans are still reeling from the deadly shooting incidents that have caused horrible bloodshed in movie theaters and schools and waiting to see what Washington does, or does not do, about guns. Then there are the countless foreign policy challenges we face."

In this Jan. 27, 2010, file photo the Capitol is seen in Washington as President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address.  (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) In this Jan. 27, 2010, file photo the Capitol is seen in Washington as President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union address. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

Whatever Obama chooses to address in this grabbag of troubles, immigration will certainly be front and center. Among the inevitable gallery invitees are a number of undocumented immigrants, many of whom came to the U.S. as children and are now struggling with work and education opportunities.

In the gallery will be Ambar Pinto, a 19-year-old student from Fairfax County, Va., who arrived in the U.S. illegally at the age of 12. Pinto is a student at Northern Virginia Community College and pays three times the tuition of in-state residents and still cannot get a driver's license. She was invited by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

“I’m very, very honored that Sen. Warner invited me to this event,” Pinto told NBC Latino. “I think it’s going to make an impact in our country and show the importance that there is to have immigration reform in 2013.”

Anticipating the immigrant theme, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will offer the official GOP rebuttal. But as the American Enterprise Institute's Norman Ornstein observed to the National Journal, “It is actually an awful job to have. “You are either speaking to the camera with no audience, or with an audience a media person conjured up. Either way, you look so much smaller than the president standing in the House chamber behind the presidential seal.”

The National Journal's George Condon then goes on to catalog the dismal history of politicians on both sides of the aisle who have tried to counter to the grandeur of the president's State of the Union.

Rubio will compete for air time with an official response from the tea party, given by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. This is the second year that the tea party has stepped into the State of the Union mix.

Rubio might also have to compete for air time against a guest of Congressman Steve Stockman, R-Texas, who is placing retired rocker and active gun advocate Ted Nugent in the gallery.

"I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama," Stockman said in a press release. "After the address I’m sure Ted will have plenty to say.”

Nugent made waves during the recent presidential campaign after he made comments about President Obama. Among other things, Nugent said if Obama were re-elected, he (Nugent) would be "in prison or dead."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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