Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday is more than a blueprint for fixing the economy, as Democratic aides like to describe it. It's a political speech that will frame the President's re-election message as a choice between two different visions for the future of the country and the role of government.
The President's campaign does not want this election to be a referendum on the president and his stewardship of the economy. That, for them, would be bad. Instead, they want a contrast campaign between a GOP they can define as allied with wealthy interests – the same kind of forces that brought the economy to its knees in 2008 – versus a President who will fight for regular working Americans.
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The President says he will draw on themes from the Kansas speech he delivered in early December. You can expect him to talk again about one kind of economy where the wealthy and reckless (translation: irresponsible mortgage lenders and Wall Street deal makers) get ahead. And another kind of economy where regular Americans have an opportunity to advance with hard work. Guess which economy the campaign claims - and implicitly the president - the GOP will usher in and which one the President can bring?
Democratic sources acknowledge that to succeed in November the President has to make the case that his policies have begun to make a difference – the economy is showing signs of improvement. And his team has numbers he can cite to show signs of life in the economy. Some of the figures the administration has used recently to make that case: The economy has added nearly 3.2 million private sector jobs over the last 22 months. The American auto industry is coming back, adding 100,000 jobs in the last year. American manufacturing is creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. American oil production is at the highest level in eight years.
A big piece of the president's message is positioning himself against Washington – and expect some of that again Tuesday night with the President arguing Congress like the rest of Washington has to take "responsibility."