President Obama delivers last year's State of the Union Address on Jan. 25, 2011.
Credit Evan Vucci / AP
Given the nonstop, stereo-rock news cycle, the warp speed tempo of geopolitics and the constant to-and-fro between the media and the president, has the State of the Union address become obsolete?
Traditionally, the speech — an annual where-we-stand lecture delivered by the president to a joint session of Congress — has for decades been an opportunity for the professor in chief to issue a national report card and put current events in calm, codifiable context.
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A string of debates and primaries has kept the Republican presidential candidates in the spotlight this election season. Tonight, it's the president's turn to take center stage. President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address, and in many ways kick off his own campaign for re-election. It's a reminder that Mr. Obama is running for president.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives for a news conference Dec. 22 to announce that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., negotiated a deal on the payroll tax cut that was set to expire at the end of the year.
The last battle scar of 2011 for the GOP came in December, when House Republicans painted themselves into a corner on extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. The fight exposed the party's internal rifts and the loose control of its leaders.
One GOP lawmaker called it "a public relations fiasco." They could compromise with the Democrats or allow taxes to go up — neither option palatable to large portions of the majority.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum shakes hands with supporters prior to speaking during a campaign stop at Captain Steve's Restaurant on Jan. 20 in Fort Mill, S.C. Fort Mill is just over the line from North Carolina, and some voters wish they could cross over for the GOP primary on Saturday.
Credit John W. Adkisson / Getty Images
South Carolina voters have a pivotal role Saturday in narrowing the field of Republican presidential candidates.
But after that, South Carolina will get very little political attention. It's solidly Republican and simply not worth the time or money of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
North Carolina, on the other hand, could go either way, and the Obama campaign is already digging in. The Charlotte region straddles both states and leads a sort of "double life" in politics.