President Obama delivers an election-year State of the Union address tonight at a moment when the country is worried about the economy, and his own prospects for re-election are mixed at best.
The speech, delivered to a joint session of Congress and televised nationally beginning at 9 p.m., will include four key areas: aiding manufacturing, helping energy production and use, improving skills for workers, and stressing what aides called "American values."
Americans rank the economy as their top concern, and domestic issues are at their highest priority level in 15 years, according to one new poll Monday.
At the same time, Obama continues to win the approval of less than half the country -- less than the last two presidents heading into re-election years and similar to George H.W. Bush in 1992, the last incumbent to lose his bid for a second term. One big difference: Bush's numbers were heading down; Obama's are lackluster but stable.
Obama hopes the speech will help him frame the coming election on his terms rather than the themes heard daily from Republicans in Congress and on the candidates trail.
"Since President Obama took office, 1.7 million fewer people have jobs, gas prices have doubled, and the health care law is making it harder for small businesses to hire and provide health insurance to their employees," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a pre-emptive strike Monday.
White House aides said Obama will build on a speech he gave last month in which he laid out what he called the two competing visions: a Republican blueprint for survival of the fittest that trusts unregulated markets to lift the country; and his vision, which asks the government to take an active hand.