Trump to herald recovery but here's a few other things to watch out for in SofU address

US President Donald Trump will herald a robust economy and push for bipartisan congressional action on immigration in his State of the Union address, as he seeks to rally a deeply divided nation.

The speech - which happens at 2am tomorrow GMT, marks the ceremonial kick-off of his second year in office and is traditionally a president's biggest platform to speak to the nation.

However, Mr Trump has redefined presidential communications with his high-octane, filter-free Twitter account and there is no guarantee that the carefully crafted speech will resonate beyond his next tweet.

Still, White House officials are hopeful the president can use the prime-time address to Congress and millions of Americans watching at home to take credit for a soaring economy.



Though the trajectory of lower unemployment and higher growth began under his predecessor, Mr Trump argues that the tax overhaul he signed into law late last year has boosted business confidence and will lead companies to reinvest in the United States.

Considering the strength of the economy, Mr Trump will step before lawmakers in a remarkably weak position.




His approval rating has hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency and at the close of 2017, just three in 10 Americans said the United States was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research.

In the same survey, 67% of Americans said the country was more divided because of Mr Trump.

It is unlikely Mr Trump will be able to rely on a robust legislative agenda to reverse those numbers in 2018.

Congress has struggled with the basic function of funding the government, prompting a brief government shutdown earlier this month that was resolved only with a short-term fix that pushed the spending deadline to February 8.

Against the backdrop of the spending fight, Republicans and Democrats are also wrestling with the future of some 700,000 young immigrants living in the United States illegally.

Mr Trump has vowed to protect the so-called Dreamers from deportation, but is also calling for changes to legal immigration that are controversial with both parties.

Though Democrats are eager to reach a resolution for the young immigrants, the party is hardly in the mood to compromise with Mr Trump ahead of the midterm elections.

Lawmakers see his unpopularity as a key to their success in November, and are eager to mobilise Democratic voters itching to deliver the president and his party a defeat at the ballot box.



Seeking to set the tone for their election-year strategy, party leaders have tapped Massachusetts Republican Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F Kennedy, to deliver a post-speech rebuttal aimed at casting Democrats, not Mr Trump, as champions of the middle class.

Democrats are also looking to make their mark in other ways.

A handful of lawmakers are planning to boycott the president's remarks, and several Democratic women plan to wear black to protest against sexual harassment, an issue that has tarnished several lawmakers in both parties.

Mr Trump himself has been accused of assault or harassment by more than a dozen women, accusations he has denied.



With all this in mind here's a few other things to watch for ... 

- How superlative?

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders previewed the speech on Monday by describing the state of the union as "incredible".

But will the hyperbole-loving president tone down his bombastic speaking style a bit?

The White House is setting expectations as close to "yes" as possible - but only for as long as the speech itself lasts.

Expect the president to cast the tax overhaul he signed in December and the strong economy as Trump initiatives that help all Americans.

Thematically, he is expected to speak of having built the foundation for a safer and stronger nation.

But can Mr Trump stay on message - and off Twitter - after the reviews come in?




- The elephant in the chamber

Will Mr Trump make any mention of Mr Mueller's probe of Russian connections and obstruction of justice, or his own expressed willingness to be interviewed under oath?

The president told reporters last week he would "love" to be interviewed under oath about the matter.

However, his lawyers did not seem as enthusiastic and are still negotiating.

- Flotus

First lady Melania Trump will face extra scrutiny this year - and not just because of the former model's fashionable couture.

Mrs Trump's movements have been closely watched since The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the president's lawyer had arranged a payment to an adult film star, Stormy Daniels, to keep her from talking about an alleged 2006 affair with the future president.

The couple's 13th wedding anniversary passed without public comment last week, and Mrs Trump abruptly announced she was skipping a trip with her husband to an economic summit last week in Switzerland.

- Who's there

Often who is in the chamber reflects the president's priorities.

Seated around Mrs Trump will be more than a dozen guests, including small-business owners, beneficiaries of tax relief, victims of gang violence and a police officer who adopted a baby from parents addicted to opioids.

Democrats are strategically populating their guest lists, too - with faces of the immigration debate that is roiling Congress and vexing Mr Trump.

Their guests will include immigrants who are among the nearly 700,000 people who received protection from deportation under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme.

Mr Trump cancelled the programme last year but gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix.



- Who's not

Traditionally, one member of the Cabinet stays away from the address for security reasons.

One question is whether Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Mr Trump nominated for the Supreme Court, will attend the speech.

Justice Samuel Alito, who shook his head and mouthed "not true" at Barack Obama during the 2010 State of the Union speech, has not attended a presidential address since.

Some Democratic lawmakers plan to boycott the president's address.

- What they wear

Typically, some female lawmakers wear bright colours so they will stand out on television.

However, this year, several Democratic women plan to wear black to protest against sexual harassment after a season of scandals toppled male leaders across industries.

Congress is no exception: Accusations have forced resignations and retirements in both parties.

Mr Trump, too, has faced sexual assault allegations.

- Rebuttal

Representative Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts will deliver the Democratic response to the president's address.

He is the grandson of the late Robert F Kennedy, the senator and US attorney general, and the son of former Representative Joseph Kennedy II, who served in the House from 1987 to 1999.

Democratic leaders are pitching Mr Kennedy as someone who can champion Democratic policies to the middle class.



- Then this happens

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is scheduled to appear on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! following Mr Trump's address.

She said she had an affair with him shortly after he married Mrs Trump.

- Press Association & Digital Desk

 

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