President Barack Obama will face a very different Congress tonight when he delivers his State of the Union address than he did a year ago. His speech will air on all major networks at 9 p.m. Some of the expected highlights include:
1 Making nice: Expect Obama’s speech to have a conciliatory tone toward Republicans. Since the Democrats were walloped in November’s midterm elections, losing control of the House, Obama’s poll numbers have climbed, and so have his compromises with the GOP.
2 Shaking things up: Obama senior adviser David Axelrod reportedly had told the president to avoid a laundry list of goals. Obama has the public-speaking prowess to deliver a memorable address, but it could be light on specifics.
3 ‘Spending’ vs. ‘investment’: While Obama will challenge Congress to cut federal spending, he also will push for investments in education and infrastructure to keep the U.S. standing as a global competitor. Expect Republicans to say that “investment” is a sugar-coated term for further spending.
4 Giffords tribute: In what is sure to be the evening’s most emotional moment, Obama will pay tribute to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head earlier this month. Giffords’ intern, Daniel Hernandez, who helped her before medics arrived, will sit with first lady Michelle Obama.
5 Take your seats: In a sign of bipartisanship, many Republican and Democratic lawmakers will sit together rather than on separate sides of the aisle. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R-N.Y.) were the first to announce their plans to pair up side by side.