SOTU: 7 Things Obama Always Says

PHOTO: President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 24, 2012 as Vice President Joe Biden, back left, and House Speaker John Boehner listen.

State of the Union speeches aren't too complicated.

Notorious as wish lists, they generally include sweeping benedictions of America's prowess, plus lots of ideas for things that may or may not happen. Tonight, Democrats will busily stand and sit and stand again, cheering President Obama's exhortations and admonitions, while Republicans (who control the House) sit stony-faced, resolute, and opposed. When cameras pan over GOP lawmakers, the reality of partisan politics will be brought back to light.

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President Obama has said a lot of things during his four State of the Union speeches—including the 2009 address to Congress that the White House protested wasn't a "State of the Union," per se—and he's said a lot of those things more than once.

In fact, whatever his top messages are tonight (immigration and gun control are safe bets) there are some topics and tropes we should expect of him, mostly because he's said them in every State of the Union address he's given. Here are seven things Obama always says, and, if the past is prologue, will say again tonight, even if the words are slightly different:

Read on for things Obama says every year or click below for an interactive State of the Union history lesson:

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1. Education: Let's improve it! In each of his SOTU speeches, President Obama has talked about education, mostly in similar terms. In 2009, he talked about tuition prices and subsidizing college for community volunteers; in 2010, he talked about community colleges and a tuition tax credit; in 2011, he plugged Race to the Top and the same tax credit; in 2012, he talked about community colleges again. It may not be the focus of his speech, but you can bet Obama will say something about education tonight.

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2. 'Clean Energy.' The phrase "clean energy" or "renewable energy" has appeared in each of the president's State of the Union addresses. Tonight, he's expected to stump for action on climate change, however implausible that is, politically, and "clean energy" will probably figure into that part of his speech. The president lobbied most forcefully for cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, when he pledged to "double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years" and pressed Congress for "legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution." Since then, he hasn't been as explicit about cap-and-trade, but he's praised renewables in hopeful terms every time.

3. Some Kind of Tax Credit. If history is any indication, Obama will call for some kind of tax credit, because he's done that in every SOTU so far. In 2009, it was a $2,500 credit for college tuition; in 2010, it was a credit for small businesses who hired new workers, and a $10,000 tuition credit for four years of college; in 2011, it was the same education credit; and in 2012, it was a doubling of the domestic-production credit for manufacturers. What will it be this time?

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