Four Things to Watch For During the State of the Union

PHOTO: In this Jan. 24, 2012, file photo President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.
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Tonight, President Barack Obama is set to give his State of the Union address. With it, he'll have the opportunity to lay out his agenda and set the tone for his second term in front of members of Congress and the nation.

See Also: Analysis: Obama's Immigration Legacy

What issues will the president discuss? How will he address Republicans? Who will be in the crowd? Here are four things to expect from this evening's speech.

1. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

While gun control and immigration reform have received the most attention early in Obama's second term, the president and his staff have indicated that job creation will be the central theme of the State of the Union.

"I'm going to be talking about making sure that we're focused on job creation here in the United States of America," Obama told a gathering of House Democrats last week.

A White House aide said Monday that the president would specifically address building up the nation's infrastructure, clean-energy and manufacturing sectors, as well as improving job-training programs.

The reason? Obama took office amid one of the worst financial crises in the nation's history. During his first term, he was able to stop the loss of jobs and job growth has resumed at a modest pace. But unemployment still remains high at 7.9 percent (and even higher for Latinos at 9.7 percent). The latest GDP numbers also showed that the U.S. economy shrunk slightly at the end of 2012, although indicators suggest growth could pick back up this year.

The president and Congress must also deal with related issues such as the debt ceiling and the looming "sequester" spending cuts, which some experts say could hurt economic growth if they're allowed to take effect.

The president is expected to announce several new economic initiatives that will include modest amounts of new federal spending offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, according to ABC News' Jon Karl. Then, Obama will take the road to sell his plan, with appearances in Asheville, N.C., Atlanta and Chicago later this week.

Progress on the economic front could dictate whether Obama gains the political capital to deal with other issues like guns, immigration and climate change during his last four years in the White House. And whether he exits office with a strengthening economy or a sputtering one could determine how he will be remembered by future generations.

2. A Repeat of Inaugural Address Issues

If his inaugural address was any indication, Obama is entering his second term with a fiery, unapologetic attitude about achieving important pieces of his agenda.

Obama spoke forcefully about the need for tighter restrictions on gun ownership, immigration reform and climate change, none of which received his full attention during his first four years in office. Expect him to touch on the same areas during the State of the Union. As a White House aide described it, the speeches are "two acts of the same play."

When it comes to these key issues, the partisan chill has begun to thaw on immigration, but Republicans and Democrats generally remain entrenched on guns and climate change. Will Obama take an aggressive tone on those issues in an effort to cajole Republicans and fire up his base? Or will he take a more conciliatory approach and reduce his expectations to curry favor with the other side?

Either way, it could be tough to engender any type of agreement on gun control and climate change during the next four years.

3. The Rubio Factor

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