To respond to Mr. Biden’s address, G.O.P. officials have selected Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, the former White House press secretary under President Donald J. Trump, who made clear she planned to use her platform to highlight “the failures of President Biden,” as she put it in a statement.
“We are ready to begin a new chapter in the story of America — to be written by a new generation of leaders ready to defend our freedom against the radical left and expand access to quality education, jobs and opportunity for all,” she added.
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Mr. Biden wants to use Tuesday’s speech to make the case that government works, citing legislation to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges and broadband, jump-start the semiconductor industry and expand health benefits for veterans, all of which passed on bipartisan votes. And he plans to discuss defending democracy at home and abroad at a time when Mr. Trump is talking about “termination” of part of the Constitution to restore himself to power and Russia is waging a war of conquest in Europe.
“The president’s message is made for this moment,” said Jon Favreau, who was President Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter when he lost the House in 2010. “He’s the guy who’s been working with both parties to get stuff done that matters to people, while Republican leaders have been working to appease the most extreme wing of their party. I would bet that he’ll emphasize policies that have broad, bipartisan appeal and ask for good-faith cooperation instead of cheap political stunts. And if Republicans refuse, he can take that case to the American people in 2024.”
By all accounts, Mr. Biden plans to announce a campaign for re-election, probably in March or April. Advisers are acutely aware that his delivery of the speech may be as important as its content, that he needs to appear forceful and vigorous at age 80 to demonstrate that he can handle the burdens of the presidency even at 86, at the end of eight years in the Oval Office.
To that end, former speechwriters for other presidents said White House aides may be especially attuned to ensuring that sentences are not too long and do not include words he may stumble over. In last year’s State of the Union address, Mr. Biden said “Iranian” when he meant “Ukrainian,” “America” when he meant “Delaware” and “profits” when he meant “prices.” But he exhibited energy, which will be important to display on Tuesday night.
Mr. Biden is not the first president to face the challenge of taking on ascendant congressional opposition after a midterm defeat. All four of the most recent presidents lost at least one house of Congress during their tenures, forcing them to recalibrate, each in his own way and with varying degrees of success.