Nightly News   |  February 10, 2013

State of the Union preview

President Obama is set to focus on jobs and the economy during Tuesday’s State of the Union. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> on tuesday night, president obama will deliver the first state of union address of his second term. and despite all the attention that gun violence and immigration have been getting in recent weeks, the economy will be the president's major theme. we have more on this tonight from nbc white house correspondent peter alexander . hi, peter.

>> reporter: hi, lester. good evening to you. unlike his inaugural address last month, senior advisers to the president say that his state of the union address will be more specific, more policy and agenda-oriented as the president charts out his from posed course for the next year. heading into his fifth annual address before congress tuesday night, senior administration officials say mr. obama will focus on jobs and the economy, echoing familiar themes about strengthening the nation's middle class .

>> our economy grows when everybody's getting a fair shot and getting a fair shake.

>> reporter: the president will emphasize the value of spending on education to give americans the skills they need. infrastructure, like roads. research, including clean energy technology. and manufacturing.

>> the inauguration was more about the underdog. this is about people that have already made it, but the american dream is fading and he's got their backs.

>> reporter: adding to the urgency of tuesday's speech, the looming sequester deadline set for march 1st when $85 billion in across the board cuts are set to take effect.

>> we can't have any more self-inflicted wounds on this economy. the economy is poised to take off, if we do the right things.

>> reporter: the president warning those cuts could cause a huge blow to the economy. but republicans firmly oppose more tax revenue as a solution.

>> the problem is, david, every time you turn around, the answer is to raise taxes. and, you know, he just got his tax hike on the wealthy. and you can't in this town every three months raise taxes.

>> reporter: while some of the president's most prominent items fell well below the economy in budget deficit among top concerns, mr. obama is prepared to cast them in economic terms as well, citing the benefits of attracting the world's best minds. the president's tone will matter, tomatter t, too.

>> he can continue the approach he's taken, cl which is very much an outside game. turn up the heat. or he can go to a more conciliatory tone.

>> reporter: he has three stops after the speech, asheville, north carolina . atlanta, georgia. winding down in his hometown of chicago.

>> all right, peter. we want to remind everyone, nbc news will have live coverage of the state of union address on tuesday at 9:00 eastern.