State Of The Union Address: President Obama's Pivot Into Campaign Mode

01/24/2012 12:00 am ET | Updated Jan 24, 2012

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will deliver a State of the Union address on Tuesday night built on the message that everyone deserves a fair shot at economic success and everyone must be held accountable for what they do. The next day, he'll begin using that same message as the thrust for his re-election campaign for the next 10 months.

Obama's third State of the Union address, which airs on all major networks at 9 p.m. EST, will map out a vision for boosting the economy and strengthening the middle class, based on four pillars, White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a Monday briefing. Those pillars are American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and American values. The president also will adopt a tone that ran all through a speech he gave in Kansas last month -- one that many are equating with a historic speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910 -- that carries a strong message about social and economic equality.

On the policy front, job creation and the economy will dominate the speech. Housing and college affordability will be central themes, again tied into the overall message of fairness, according to sources familiar with the speech. National security, as is always the case with the State of the Union, will also be a key component.

Expect Obama to break out issues that he and Congress can work on together; Carney signaled Monday that those areas could include comprehensive immigration reform and tax reform. The president will also point to areas where he can take action without Congress, a practice the White House has said to get used to in the coming months given the partisan gridlock that has come to define Congress.

The president won't waste time selling his message once the speech is over. Less than 24 hours after the address, he'll kick off an intense, three-day tour of five states, all of which are key battleground states for his re-election: Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan. The move is a convenient overlapping point for Obama to connect his governing to his campaigning, which has already gotten off the ground but isn't in full force yet.

Carney dismissed the idea that Obama is using the State of the Union as a springboard for his re-election effort. He called this week's trips "official visits" that the president is taking to further explain the details of his speech to the country.

"This is a State of the Union address that the president is giving," Carney said. "The themes of this speech that I just discussed reflect ... in many ways the principles that President Obama has brought to public service since he began his career in public service. So it wouldn't take much to understand where he's coming from and where he believes the country will go."

Carney added, "I'm sure that the campaign is focused on those same ideas, because they are working to get the president reelected."

But politics are clearly driving this year's State of the Union as it comes in the midst of a presidential campaign. Obama will be looking to draw sharp contrasts between himself and his Republican challengers, and more broadly, between Democrats and Republicans. And Congressional Republican leaders will be poised to criticize Obama's proposals -- and give a shout-out to his GOP presidential challengers.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is already taking shots at the president ahead of his address. During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Boehner criticized Obama for planning what he said sounds to be "the same old policies" of more spending, taxes and regulations that Republicans claim have hurt the economy.

If Obama plans to reiterate the same ideas he's backed in the past few years, then "I think it's pathetic," Boehner said.

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