Before President Bush heads to the Capitol tonight, no one should be surprised if he first doublechecks a pair of crucial Senate votes this afternoon--and the closing Dow.
More than most, this State of the Union address has its changing dynamics, not only because it is the last of the Bush presidency but also because the nation faces such historic uncertainty: wars overseas, falling financial markets and no clear champion yet in either political party to take the helm when Bush leaves.
The president is expected to speak fervently of his trust in Americans, even as he asks voters to trust him with more surveillance authority--now being debated in the Senate--and billions more for the war in Iraq.
But the downturn in the economy has shaken what's been a pillar of his power, and Bush knows he will have to share the stage more this year even as he tries to hold on to a piece for himself.
Nothing illustrates this better than the new $150 billion economic stimulus package, a major subject tonight but one not even in early drafts of speech a month ago.
The president will single out Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner for their work in shaping the bill, which comes before the full House Tuesday.
The New York Times also reports, "With polls showing that the economy has eclipsed Iraq on Americans' list of most pressing concerns, Mr. Bush faces the unwelcome prospect that his legacy -- which the White House always assumed would be wrapped up in the war -- will be wrapped up in hard times instead. Like his father, he risks leaving office on an economic sour note, with a reputation for spending so much time worrying about foreign affairs that he forgot about the problems of ordinary Americans at home."