State of the Union: President Obama’s big campaign speech

The Republican candidates, who have reveled in the spotlight and battered Barack Obama for months, are about to get a sharp lesson in the power of the presidency.

The most important 2012 campaign event so far — and almost certainly the most important until the parties’ national conventions this summer — will take place Tuesday night under the guise of a governing ritual.

It is hardly a shock to say that the State of the Union address — which has drawn audiences of 43 million to 52 million viewers in the Obama years, crushing any of the recent GOP candidate debates — will be a political affair. Every State of the Union address of modern times has been, in its own way, thoroughly political.

But Obama will appear on Capitol Hill as a president who is virtually wiping out the space, never wide to begin with, betwee n politicking and governing in the West Wing as Election Day nears.

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