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The Globe and Mail

What to expect from Obama’s state of the union address

FILE PHOTO: In this Feb. 7, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference in Lansdowne, Va.

Charles Dharapak/AP

After staking out an unapologetically progressive vision in his inaugural address last month, President Barack Obama is expected to use his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to focus on middle-class jobs and fill in the details of his second-term agenda. Here are eight things to watch for in a speech expected to be viewed by millions:

Jobs and growth

What he is going to do about jobs and growth, perhaps shifting his focus to strengthening the economy from a preoccupation with deficits and the debt. A senior administration official said Mr. Obama will also lay out plans for new investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, clean energy and education in the speech.

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Energy policy

Argue that an energy policy that aims to expand alternatives to fossil fuels need not be seen as merely a do-good, tree-hugger policy but as a job-creating, industry-building, infrastructure-strengthening endeavour. Look for him to remind lawmakers and the viewing public that concerns about climate change and extreme weather will not go away if ignored.


Scold Republicans about engineering crisis after crisis over the budget. He will argue that the prospects of debt defaults and government shutdowns or draconian tax hikes and spending cuts every few months are part of what is holding the economy back.

Immigration reform

Assert with confidence that immigration reform is an idea whose time has come, and that it has support from business and organized labour alike. Done right, putting 11 million illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship will help lift middle-class wages, not undercut them, he is likely to argue. Left unsaid will be the message that Latinos overwhelmingly supported him in November and that if Republicans hope to get right with that growing voter bloc, they cannot get in the way of immigration reform.

Gun control

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Make an impassioned plea for gun control. Most Americans favour some sort of restraint; expect him to argue that a school shooting massacre like the one in Newtown, Conn., should end once and for all the stranglehold the gun lobby has on common-sense measures to limit gun violence.

A teacher who survived the shooting rampage that killed 20 students and six educators at the Newtown school is expected to be in the House of Representatives chamber for the speech, the guest of her congresswoman.

Equal rights

Explain that as the nation gets used to living side by side with gays and lesbians, it has become clear that community deserves equal rights under the law. Mr. Obama has cast that message in terms of the nation's history of grudging acceptance of the rights of women and minorities.

World affairs

Promise that the United States will continue to play a leading role in world affairs, and say that peace in the Middle East is vitally important to U.S. interests. He is likely to vow to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and to keep that nation under pressure.

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Make the case that it is time for the United States to step back from Afghanistan as it did from Iraq, but that it will retain a strong military that will use advanced technology to protect the United States from threats by militants.

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