State of the Union 2011: A One-Click Guide


At the same time, the era of new civility in Washington kicks off with D.C.'s "date night." Lawmakers from opposing parties will sit next to each other instead of on their normal sides of the aisle.

Recent speeches have been marked by one side or the other standing and applauding while the other side of the room, separated by the main aisle in the House of Representatives, sits silently. At the 2010 address, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., even yelled, 'You lie,' at the president.

But in the wake of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting this month, lawmakers plan to make a point of being more bipartisan by, if nothing else, intermingling the parties. For a look at which lawmakers have paired off, click HERE.

It is clear that the economy and political tone will be the focuses of the speech. What is the evidence? In the visitors area, sitting next to the first lady will be an array of small business owners and big business executives.

Also in the visitors box will be Medal of Honor winner Salvatore Giunta and several other veterans, as well as Daniel Hernandez, the intern who attended to the critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson after she was shot by a lone gunman.

State of the Union Guide

As for policy, Obama is expected to suggest cutting some budget items but investing in others. The exact contents are tightly held secrets but some details have leaked out to the White House press corps.

Republicans will get a chance to respond. But while Obama's speech will likely last more than an hour, the Republican response will be less than a quarter of that.

The GOP response will be given by budget hawk and Wisconsinite Rep. Paul Ryan. He'll speak from the Budget Committee room as Republicans try to make the point that they are serious about cutting discretionary, non-defense spending.

Ryan, 40, is a telegenic lawmaker from the battleground state of Wisconsin. But his proposals to bring the U.S. deficit in order rely on creating voucher systems in Medicare and private investment accounts in Social Security. Neither has been endorsed by the Republican leadership. Click HERE for more on Ryan.

Before the speech, Republicans in the House plan a symbolic vote to roll back non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels; the last time they were in charge of both houses of Congress.

Even among Republicans, however, there is no agreement on the budget. Responding seperately to the president will be Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a founding member of the Tea Party caucus.

After the speeches and analyses, the president will leave the next day for Wisconsin to try to sell his proposals in the heartland; and in a state where Democrats lost two House seats, a Senate seat and the governorship in 2010.

State of the Union Guide

Matthew Dowd was President George W. Bush's political strategist in the 2004 presidential campaign and an ABC consultant. Read his guide to grading the State of the Union addresses HERE.

And take our quiz to test your State of the Union IQ HERE.

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