January 24th, 2012
08:20 AM ET
Washington (CNN) - If history is any guide, President Obama will reach for the stars during his State of the Union address tonight. But in the end, reality will bring his plans back down to Earth.
Obama's "blueprint" for 2012 may run into similar partisan roadblocks that trimmed his lofty hopes for last year.
"There are absolutely things that remain undone that need to be done," White House spokesman Jay Carney admitted to reporters on Monday even as he touted a "fairly comprehensive list of proposals" that he believes the president has achieved.
Ambition is taking the fall for unfinished business.
"If you got through a year and you achieved everything on your list then you probably didn't aim high enough," Carney said.
"This year, the president's prospects for hope and change are even smaller," noted Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kukowski.
Some of the president's policy proposals that White House aides describe as ambitious will require Congressional approval, and most of those "may be dead on arrival in Congress," Kukowski predicted.
But the president's tone is expected to be matched with a call for action. "He rejects the idea that nothing can get done in an election year," Carney insisted.
Seizing on the economy as his principal theme, President Obama gave a preview of the speech to supporters in a video released by his re-election campaign.
In what he called a "blueprint for an American economy that's built to last," the president said manufacturing, energy, education and values would be the foundation for building an "economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few."
He'll fill in the details during the speech, but a Democratic source briefed on the current draft of the State of the Union gave CNN a view of what will be proposed:
- A tax code that lets the Bush tax cuts expire and the wealthy pay more
These proposals come after months of deliberations behind the scenes. The President held a conference call with state legislators, mayors and tribal leaders last week "to hear their ideas about the state of the union," a senior administration official told CNN.
Through draft after draft, top aides have described the president as "very engaged" in the process. He worked with chief speechwriter Jon Favreau and others on his policy team to "refine it." Tweaks will continue until delivery.
Looking to draw in viewers beyond the traditional television networks, the White House will host an interactive live-streamed version of the speech on its website.
Senior administration officials are expected to take part in a post-address discussion that will include a live audience and questions from Twitter, Facebook and Google.
Another sales pitch will involve the president himself when he hits the road starting Wednesday with a three-day, five-state tour. He'll tackle one of the main pillars laid out in his address each day, according to a senior administration official. On Wednesday it will be manufacturing; Thursday, energy and energy security, and Friday, American skills and innovation.
Republicans consider the highly touted tour a tax-funded campaign trip, with convenient visits to states that could be key to the president's re-election efforts.
"Obama's speech won't be as important for the policy agenda he lays out...as for the political campaign it sets for the next nine months," the RNC's Kukowski said. "Perhaps that's why he will travel to Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan, all potentially swing states in the election."
The White House brushes aside that criticism and redirects attention to the president's primary goal of fixing the economy and creating jobs.
Top aides insist that despite predictions of more gridlock, there's no reason proposals that will be detailed in the State of the Union address can't find bipartisan support.
And while some of last year's promises went unmet, tonight's address will be no less ambitious.
"You shouldn't trim your sails because of that," Carney said.