Pundits Say President's Campaign Starts Tonight

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the 2011 State of the Union Address while standing in front of President of the Senate Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner. White House images.
Tonight President Barack Obama will address the nation in the final State of the Union address of his first term. The speech will serve as a preview of how he'll run his campaign for re-election.

It seems like the presidential race for 2012 has been going on for a long time.

But Rice University Political Science Chair Mark Jones says this is where the race really begins.

"Tonight we'll see the true kick-off for the 2012 presidential race. Now clearly, the president's been campaigning for quite a while, this you can look at though as a nationwide launch of that campaign. At the same time, however, the president needs to strike a balance between being in campaign mode but also continuing to be the president of all Americans."

Jones says President Obama must strike a balance between running for reelection without seeming overly partisan. He'll likely spend much of his speech talking about the economy and the deadlock between Democrats and Republicans over raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

"So in many ways what we're seeing tonight will be a signal of what type of campaign and what issues is President Obama going to campaign on against his Republican opponent starting now, but will become particularly intense once we hit August, September and October and then of course November."

An estimated 40 million people will watch the president's speech tonight. That's compared to the three to five million who have tuned in for each of the Republican debates.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...