President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union address on Tuesday with one eye on the political calendar as time ticks down on his bid to advance an agenda that will help shape his White House legacy.
Just three months after winning re-election on Nov. 6, the Democratic president has a narrow window to push through policy priorities on the economy, immigration reform, and gun control.
Analysts say he has roughly a year before Washington turns its attention to the 2014 mid-term elections, which could sweep more Republicans into Congress and accelerate the subsequent “lame duck” status that defines presidents who are not running for office again.
“He basically has a year for major legislative accomplishments because after the first year you get into the mid-term elections, which will partially be a referendum on his presidency,” said Michele Swers, an associate professor of American government at Georgetown University.
Obama’s speech at 9:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday (0200 GMT Wednesday) will be a chance for the president to build momentum within that tight time frame.
“I don’t want to say it’s the last important speech he’s going to give, but the window for a second-term president is fairly narrow,” said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman under former Republican President George W. Bush.
With unemployment still high and massive “sequester” spending cuts looming, administration officials say Obama will
use the address before a television audience of millions to press Congress to support his proposals to boost the economy.
The White House is eager to show Obama’s commitment to the economy is as great as it is to immigration and gun reforms, and he is expected to spend most of his speech reviving a theme that dominated his 2012 campaign: helping the middle class.
“You will hear … an outline from him for his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.
“His principal preoccupation as president has been the need to first reverse the devastating decline in our economy and then set it on a trajectory where it’s growing in a way that helps the middle class, makes it more secure, and makes it expand.”
Obama will travel to three states in the days after his speech to sell his proposals to the public.