Tonight, President Obama is set to deliver the final state of the union address of his first term. Morning Edition's Renee Montagne spoke to White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe for a preview of the president's speech.
"The central challenge that we are facing right now is we came out of a steep recession, the worst since the Great Depression, and the American people want to know how are we going to continue to climb out of it," Plouffe said. "And that's what the president is going to lay out tonight: A very specific blueprint for how we build an America that's durable and that works for as many people in this country as possible."
Plouffe said the president's speech will include specific ideas on improving manufacturing and restructuring the tax code and on American energy. Renee also asked Plouffe if the president would lay down the ground work for a 2012 campaign that runs against Congress.
Plouffe said there is no doubt "there was too much gridlock and partisanship in Washington," but despite the fact that a general election is fast approaching, "there's plenty of time for folks here in Washington to make real progress to help the economy broadly."
Of course, as we noted earlier, the day's other big political story is that Mitt Romney has released his tax returns showing the former Massachusetts governor has paid taxes as low as 13.9 percent and holds some of his wealth in foreign banks. Renee asked Plouffe if the president is ready to pounce on the issue.
Plouffe demurred a bit, saying there's still a long time to go in the Republican nomination process but then added:
"It does underscore I think a very important point, which [is] we have a tax code here that's not fair enough, not simple enough. ...
"We'll be talking about that in some detail tonight. So we have to have a tax system that you know is simpler ... But if we're going invest in manufacturing, if we're going to invest in energy, if we're going to invest in education and we're going to cut the deficit, these are choices and there are no easy choices.
"We're going to have to get the rest of the job done with having the wealthiest in this country, the wealthiest 1 or 2 percent pay a little bit more."
The president is scheduled to make his speech at 9 p.m. ET. We'll be live blogging the event.