Obama’s State of the Union will reflect state of the election

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Anyone wondering whether President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday will focus more on policy or the politics of his re-election should consider the trip he has planned immediately afterward: visits to five battleground states in three days.

About 12 hours after delivering his speech to Congress at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Obama will depart on Air Force One for Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan — all key states he hopes to win in November. His aides say the president will use the swing states to promote policies to help the middle class, but the campaign strategy is obvious.

“The president is campaigning for re-election and it’s hard to say that traveling to important electoral states is otherwise,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.

In a video preview of his State of the Union speech emailed to 10 million supporters Saturday, Mr. Obama said he would call for “a return to American values of fairness for all and responsibility from all.”

“We can go in two directions,” the president said. “One is towards less opportunity and less fairness. Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

Mr. Obama is expected to call in his speech for raising taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations to pay for what he says is needed spending on infrastructure, education and other programs.

“If that’s what the president is going to talk about Tuesday night, I think it’s pathetic,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It sounds to me like the same old policies that we’ve seen: more spending, higher taxes, more regulation — the same policies that haven’t helped our economy; they’ve made it worse.”

Whether Mr. Obama truly expects to work with a divided Congress in an election year is open to debate, especially given Mr. Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign in recent months that has emphasized taking executive actions to work around Congress.

“Republicans in Congress have not been willing to work with him and he is now in unilateral mode,” said George Edwards III, a professor of political science at Texas A&M University who specializes in presidential studies. “He certainly needs Congress to do anything major, and nothing major is going to happen this year.”

As if to underscore that, Mr. Boehner on Friday served notice that Republican leaders plan a sustained attack on the Obama administration’s agenda. Mr. Boehner said he asked all House committee chairmen to review Mr. Obama’s economic and jobs policies to counter “the devastating impact these policies have on our economy.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama still wants to work with lawmakers to approve the agenda he will lay out Tuesday night.

“Americans of all political persuasions are going to want their elected representatives here in Washington to work together, whether it’s an even year or an odd year or a year in the presidential cycle,” Mr. Carney said. “I think there are historic examples that actually contradict the assumption that you can’t get anything done in a presidential election year — 1996 comes to mind.”

In 1996, President Clinton delivered his election-year State of the Union address to a Republican Congress that voters had put into power in a midterm election as a check on Mr. Clinton.

It was in this speech that Mr. Clinton famously declared, “The era of big government is over.” During the address, he added that it was time to “finish the job and balance the budget.” He had to wait just one year to sign legislation requiring a balanced budget by 2002.

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