President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday will shape his presidency for at least the next year, his advisers say, and he is expected to set a detailed agenda on taxes and spending, job creation, immigration, gun control, education, and slowing climate change.
Obama and his aides have been providing piecemeal previews of the address in the past few days. They say the speech will be more specific than his inauguration address on January 21 and will serve as a roadmap for his fifth year in office and beyond.
He is expected to take a firmly liberal course on economic and social issues, calling for more government action on a variety of fronts.
"When I think about what it means to be a Democrat in this day and age, I start with the basic proposition that we are all created equal, that we're all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights," Obama told House Democrats Thursday in what amounted to his own State of the Union preview.
"And my governing philosophy and my interest in public service grows out of how we make that union more perfect for more people, day in, day out. And that starts with an economy that works for everybody.
"Throughout my campaign, and throughout many of your campaigns, we talked about this bedrock notion that our economy succeeds and our economy grows when everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is getting a fair shake and everybody is playing by the same rules, that we have an economy in which we're growing a vibrant middle class."
Obama, speaking at an annual House Democratic retreat in Leesburg, Va., urged Democrats to unite behind his plans for gun control and overhauling the immigration laws, even though conservatives say he is too restrictive in trying to limit gun violence and too lenient in his approach to illegal immigration. Obama called his gun-control proposals, which include universal background checks on potential gun purchasers and a ban on military-style assault weapons, "common sense."
And he described his support for a "path to citizenship" for millions of undocumented workers as another sensible idea. "We need to get immigration reform done," he said. "I'm going to be pushing hard to get it done early."
Obama also called on congressional Republicans to accept his plan to delay another budget crisis by quickly passing a temporary budget package. But he emphasized that he still wants "a big package that ends this 'governance by crisis' where every two weeks or every two months or every six months, we are threatening this hard-won recovery" with another budget showdown in Washington. He said such a long-term package would require both more revenue and spending cuts.
Obama also said he will include in his State of the Union some proposals for job creation, for promoting education, and for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil as a way to make America more energy independent and at the same time limit climate change.
On foreign policy, he is expected to renew his pledge to end the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan next year. He will remind Americans that he fulfilled his pledge to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq, and he is expected to defend his administration's policy of using drones to attack America's enemies abroad.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.