Biden’s second State of the Union address promises to be a balancing act. In the past two years, he has alternated between punishing Republicans and courting them while working to advance his policies. Just last week, he told an audience of Democratic activists that the Republican Party had gone crazy.

On Tuesday, he is likely to show a more bipartisan face, highlighting that the two parties can accomplish a lot when they work together, the White House official said. Biden has been testing some themes that he is likely to employ, including that the US is on the rise when it comes to economic and geopolitical influence, something both sides can applaud.

«The speech is a good opportunity for the president to lay out his way forward,» said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ. “It should have an upbeat, optimistic tone.”

Still, the chances of big bipartisan gains seem remote. Sitting behind Biden in the House chamber will be the new speaker, Republican Kevin McCarthy, not Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who lost her leadership role when her party lost a majority in the midterm elections.

House Republicans have little incentive to work with Biden and polish his record before the 2024 election. Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who is the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told a conference from conservative activists last August that the GOP-led investigations into the Biden administration “would help frame the 2024 race, when I hope and believe President Trump will run again and we need to make sure he wins.”

Representative Jim Jordan speaks during a House Judiciary Committee meeting in Washington, DC on Wednesday.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Faced with a divided Congress, a more realistic approach for the second half of Biden’s term would be to implement the trillion-dollar spending packages he has signed into law, some who have worked with him said.

“Some of the most important work that will take place in the second half of the term is executing on those priorities,” said David Kamin, a former member of Biden’s National Economic Council. The chances of more ambitious bills being passed through bipartisan votes «look bad right now.»

It’s not that Democratic interest groups are giving up. In the lead up to the speech, the president’s allies have been meeting privately with White House staff and urging him to use the forum to put unfinished parts of his agenda into action.

His hope is that the speech will build momentum behind several initiatives languishing on Capitol Hill: proposals to curb police abuse, protect voting rights and provide pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Biden will only have to look across the House gallery to see a harrowing reminder of police violence. Between guests They will be the parents of Tire Nichols, who died days after he was beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee.

“The president has to recognize that shaping public opinion may be more important now than trying to be the most successful legislative mechanic,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.

This is not the time to “just sit back and say, ‘I can’t do this or that because of Congress,’” Morial added. «People don’t hire the president to become a deputy member of Congress.»

The Rev. Al Sharpton suggested that, for inspiration, Biden look to a national address delivered by former President Lyndon Johnson. It was not a State of the Union address, but in March 1965, Johnson gave a civil rights speech following the beating of protesters who were trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the name of voting rights. “We will win,” Johnson promised in a speech that was the impetus for passage of the Voting Rights Act that same year.

“She needs to have a Johnson moment and deal with the fact that we didn’t elect the civil rights issues of our time, but these are the issues of our time and we need to stand up and deal with them,” said Sharpton, who spoke at Nichols’ funeral last week. last week together with Harris.

What the general public wants from the speech is an entirely different matter. For Biden, one of the troubling findings from the NBC poll is how many Americans doubt he’s ready for the job. Only 28% believe they are mentally and physically healthy enough to be president, up from 33% the year before.

Biden, the oldest person to serve as president, would be 86 at the end of a second term if he ran again and won.

«More than any policy initiative he advocates or any particular line of rhetoric, the speech will be judged by how clear and powerful it seems,» said Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter at Bill Clinton’s White House who helped draft his Statement of the Union. speeches in 1999 and 2000. “Your health, fitness and stamina are the subject of the speech whether you like it or not and regardless of what you say about anything else. If you stumble, that’s all everyone will talk about.

“The good thing is that the expectations are quite low in terms of the quality of a Biden speech and its flow. If he gives a really good, clear, forceful speech, it won’t dispel those questions about him being the oldest president in American history, but it will at least calm down, rather than fuel those concerns for a while.»