WASHINGTON — Eager to command center stage in a year dominated by Republican infighting, President Barack Obama is polishing a State of the Union address that will go to the heart of Americans' economic anxiety and try to sway voters to give him four more years.
He will speak tonight to a nation worried about daily struggles and unhappy with his handling of the economy.
Obama's 7 p.m. MST address before a politically divided Congress will be built around ideas meant to appeal to a squeezed middle class.
He is expected to urge higher taxes on the wealthy, propose ways to make college more affordable, offer new steps to tackle a debilitating housing crisis and try to help U.S. manufacturers expand hiring.
Designed as a way for a president to update the nation and recommend ideas to Congress, the State of the Union address has become more than that, especially during that one window when the address falls during the re-election year of an incumbent. It is televised theater — and Obama's biggest, best chance so far to offer a vision for a second term.
He will frame the campaign to come as a fight for fairness for those who are struggling to keep a job, a home or college savings and losing faith in how the county works.
The speech will be principally about the economy, clean energy, education and American values.
No matter whom Obama faces in November, the election is likely to be driven by the economy, and determined by which candidate wins voters' trust on how to fix it. More people than not disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy.