In the weeks leading up to his penultimate State of the Union address, President Obama and his advisers have taken the unusual step of revealing just about all of his major proposals in advance of the speech. They have offered an unprecedentedly detailed portrait of what the president plans to say on Tuesday night. What matters now is how he says it.
The theme of the speech will be "middle-class economics," and the centerpiece is a tax cut for working families that would be paid for with higher taxes on investments and inheritances for the wealthy. Obama will tout his plan to make the first two years of community college free for up to 9 million students, as well as his call for increased paid sick leave for employees. And he'll surely promote a proposal to boost cyber-security for consumers by increasing enforcement capabilities and requiring companies to reveal data breaches within 30 days.
If this all sounds like one gigantic spoiler, blame the White House. Rather than use the State of the Union as a "big reveal" moment for new presidential policy proposals, Obama is inverting the process. In addition to announcing landmark changes to immigration and Cuba policy late last year, the president has spent the past two weeks publicizing other key pieces of his agenda. Obama has joked to audiences that with just two years left in office, he's "kind of in a rush" to get his ideas out there. But the idea of the preview tour, as Politico reported last week, stems from the belief inside the White House that the century-old tradition of the formal State of the Union speech is outdated in 2015 and that Obama could generate more attention for his proposals by parceling them out piece by piece.