Obama to target economy in State of the Union address tonight

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WASHINGTON -- Manufacturing, energy, job training and middle-class growth will be the cornerstones of President Barack Obama's speech tonight as he takes to the nation's grandest political stage for the annual address on the state of the union, according to senior advisers.

Expect a speech peppered with the phrase "built to last," which the president road-tested in a speech last month in Kansas and that aides repeated during a background conference call with reporters Monday. The call was meant to provide a glimpse into Mr. Obama's mindset as he worked on the final details of the speech.

The president wants to "have an economy that is built to last and that does more to create economic opportunity and economic security," one top adviser said.

The aides offered few policy details, but they indicated that fairness will be an overarching theme for the fourth year of the Obama administration. The president wants everyone to have a fair opportunity and wants everyone to contribute a fair share, they said.

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"He believes that growth should be for the many, not just for the few," one top administration official said. "The president has been focused from day one on ... strengthening this economy" in a way that makes the middle class "more secure and creates more opportunities for people to work their way up into the middle class."

Mr. Obama believes the keys to that are growing the American manufacturing sector, using domestic energy and improving education and job training in order to prepare Americans for the workforce, he said.

Those are welcome issues, even for conservatives who predict disingenuousness in the speech.

"Two of the most important things that we need to turn our economy around are to help the manufacturing sector and to become energy independent, but everything that President Obama has done has been contrary to that," said David N. Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association. "His regulatory overkill has been absolutely crippling."

Mr. Taylor pointed to clean-air regulations that he said are too expensive for refineries to comply with and to Mr. Obama's rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

White House aides on Monday could not say whether the president's remarks tonight would include mention of the controversial pipeline.

What he will present is a broad plan for "an economy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that can be designed here, that can create jobs here" and that can lower energy costs for both families and job creators.

The speech begins Mr. Obama's final year of this term in office, and it is expected to be partly a stump speech, although aides on Monday said he would not use it to contrast his policies with those of his Republican presidential rivals.

"There will be plenty of opportunities for us, later this year, to engage in robust debate with Republican candidates about who has the better vision," one aide said. "He'll be focused on his own vision."


Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com or 703-996-9292.


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