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Page last updated at 01:13 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Obama State of Union address to stress 'hope and unity'

President Obama
President Obama will call for the influence of lobbyists to be curtailed

US President Barack Obama is to tell Americans in his first State of the Union address to Congress he has never been more hopeful for the future.

President Obama will urge politicians to unite to give the American people what they deserve and pledge not to walk away from healthcare reform.

Excerpts released from his speech say he will call for "strict limits" on the influence of lobbyists in Washington.

The president will address a joint session of Congress at 2100 (0200 GMT).

Correspondents say that with opinion polls showing the president's popularity falling, his first State of the Union address is an opportunity to assure Americans that the country is on the right course.

Mr Obama will say that because of the American people's "great decency and great strength" he has "never been more hopeful about America's future than I am tonight".

He will urge "Democrats and Republicans to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics".

But he will also say that "by the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance".

MARDELL'S AMERICA
Mark Mardell
The president probably has to sound regretful that things aren't better and perhaps admit to a few mistakes - but not to too many

"Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Co-pays will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber," he will say.

Mr Obama will also criticise last week's decision by the US Supreme Court to reject long-standing limits on how much companies can spend on political campaigns.

"I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities," he will say.

"They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."

He will also talk about "taking action" to end the "outsized influence of lobbyists" in order to tackle the "deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works", according to the excerpts.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address.

Poll: Issues

In excerpts of his speech released in advance, he will say the US cannot afford the spending that Democrats have enacted or the tax increases they propose.

Mr McDonnell will say Democratic policies are resulting in an unsustainable level of debt.

In an earlier statement from the White House, Mr Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod said the president would outline steps needed to rebuild the US economy

He will talk about jump-starting private sector job creation and "restoring security for middle class families", Mr Axelrod said.

Last year Mr Obama's main legislative priority was healthcare reform, but as the bill became mired in Congress and unemployment rose to 10%, it became clear the public was more concerned about job creation and reducing the deficit, says the BBC's Richard Lister in Washington.

The deficit is forecast at $1.35tn in 2010, near its highest levels as a percentage of gross domestic product since World War II, figures from the Congressional Budget Office show.

Mr Obama has indicated he will call for a three-year limited freeze on domestic spending, but that has outraged liberals in his own party and drawn fire from Republicans who want deeper cuts.

Republican power

The Republican party will have more power over the agenda this year, thanks to its election victory in Massachusetts last week, which has denied the president sufficient Senate votes for a smooth passage of healthcare reform and possibly new laws on emissions reduction too, our correspondent says.

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Among the other topics expected to feature are immigration reform, cap-and-trade global warming legislation, education reform and rules to rein in Wall Street.

The foreign policy portion of the speech will probably be limited to the US involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most polls show Mr Obama's popularity hovering around 50% or just below, but his overall approval rating and grades for handling issues like the economy have dropped significantly.

A BBC/Harris poll has found that significant numbers of Americans believe Mr Obama has devoted too little attention to employment (59%), the budget deficit (56%) and the economy (48%).

On the flip side, 44% think he has spent too much time on healthcare reform.

The majority (51%) want him to focus on the economy during his speech, followed by employment (42%).

Opinion on his overall performance is split, with equal numbers (20%) grading his first year performance as an A, a C, and an F.

He has proved most popular in the western states and among people aged 35-44, and least popular in the southern states and with those aged 55 and older.

The poll was conducted online over two days in January. It surveyed 2,010 adults in the US, adjusting for demographic factors and propensity to be online.


You can watch President Obama's speech live on the BBC News website, as well as on BBC World News.



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