updated 1/18/2007 5:12:06 PM ET 2007-01-18T22:12:06

President Bush's State of the Union speech next week will avoid the traditional laundry list of initiatives and focus on a few issues where he might find common ground with the Democratic-controlled Congress, the White House said Thursday.

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"I just think some of the old State of the Union formulas have kind of run their course," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said.

The approach that Snow promised for Tuesday night's address reflects the current political landscape.

Voters in November ousted Republicans as the party in charge on Capitol Hill and Bush now faces skeptical majority Democrats rather than compliant GOP lawmakers.

The speech comes less than two weeks after Bush announce a big buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq. With Bush's low approval ratings, a more tailored national address might keep the public from tuning out or reaching for the remote, White House officials reason.

The president plans to highlight health care, education, energy, immigration and the fight against terrorism, including the war in Iraq.

Last year, Bush rebuked critics of his stay-the-course strategy in Iraq, where more than 2,240 American troops had died. This year he will defend his new war plan after the death toll has surpassed 3,000.

Democrats have chosen Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, a vocal critic of the war who has a son serving in Iraq, to give their party's response.

Energy and Social Security
The costs of the war and the deficit probably will preclude the president from announcing expensive new programs.

As he did last year, when he said America was "addicted to oil," Bush is expected to bemoan U.S. reliance on foreign sources of energy and express support for alternative fuels.

The president is expected to challenge Congress to fix Social Security's long-term solvency problem, preserve tax cuts and join him in balancing the budget within five years. Other topics Bush is expected to mention include increasing access to medical coverage and making the costs of the war more transparent in the federal budget.

A former economic adviser to the president, Roy Ramthun, said he expects the president to continue to promote health savings accounts.

Such accounts are available to people who buy insurance policies with high deductibles, meaning consumers are responsible for more of the initial costs when they see a doctor or a dentist. The insurance policies do not cost as much because of the high deductible, yet they do provide protection in the event of a major injury or illness.

Ramthun said Congress agreed with some of the president's request last year to raise the contribution limits for the accounts. Congress also agreed to let employers put more money into the accounts of low-wage workers, he said.

Bush last year urged higher contribution limits and proposed letting employers contribute extra amounts for chronically ill workers. Ramthun said he believes the president will repeat those calls this year.

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