Tonight is the State of The Union Address. The White House says it'll build on the progressive themes President Obama laid out at his inauguration.
No question - money's the main issue tonight - especially 85 Billion in automatic cuts - now, just weeks away.
Tonight, instead of focusing on how budget cuts would affect the Pentagon, we're told President Obama will focus on the middle class .
Cuts to head start, research and thousands of government jobs. "His emphasis on the need to continue to create jobs or to continue to have our manufacturing sector expand -- that work isn't done," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
In the audience tonight, the parents of a slain Chicago teenager who had just marched in the inaugural parade. Underscoring the President's push for gun control. "I'm happy that the murderer of Hadiya Pendleton is now off the street," said Cleopatra Cowley, Hadiya's Mother.
The President is also expected to address immigration reform. A move that may have more impact outside Washington. "The goal is-- is-- is to move public opinion because that's what moves Congress," said Former Senior Advisor to President Obama David Axelrod.
Lawmakers and former lawmakers on both sides say his clear focus must be the budget. "If we don't get it under control fairly soon, and have Congress and the president lead us in this area, then we will end up with a nation which is insolvent," said Former Senator Judd Gregg, (R) New Hampshire.
Republicans are already criticizing what happens after tonight's speech. President Obama hits the road - three cities in three days - to push his agenda. "Mr. President: If you're truly worried about this issue, why aren't you working with the Congress we elected to prevent it?" said Senate Minority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Tracie Potts, NBC News.
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