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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Address To Feature An Upbeat Bill Clinton

WASHINGTON -- President Bill Clinton will unofficially launch his campaign for re-election Tuesday in a State of the Union address sprinkled with initiatives to assuage middle-class anxieties, but primarily structured as an upbeat summoning of Americans to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


Clinton, who does not plan to formally announce his candidacy until spring, will forgo any urge to write another partisan chapter in the continuing saga of federal budget politics, aides say.


Instead, the president will lay out to a prime-time television audience broader communitarian themes and paint a portrait of America entering the new century in an "age of possibilities" its citizens must step forward to seize.


In a nod to the buoyant optimism of former President Ronald Reagan, Clinton has told his aides -- and the political theorists, philosophers and political scientists with whom he has communed in preparing the speech -- that he wants an upbeat assessment of the state of the union. But the president wants to blend the upbeat by challenging different segments of America to do their part to move forward a country with unlimited possibilities.


White House press secretary Michael McCurry said, with almost a straight face, last week that the president hoped to conclude his 9 p.m. address by the time "Nightline" begins at 11:35. Communications director Don Baer said the speech would be about as long as the first half of the Super Bowl, which means it won't be short.


The election-year State of the Union is considered one of a president's more important moments, and an unrivaled tool to allow him to set the broad themes for the campaign to follow.


Clinton is treating this State of the Union speech as seriously as he has the preceding three.


Beginning with a "Green Outreach Book" of mini-essays by cultural commentators and others, the president moved to a set of dinners with what aides call "Big Thinkers," mostly academics with recent books on what's gone right or wrong with society and government and what to do about it.


Interviews with some of the academics suggest the president is not particularly interested in laying out many programmatic proposals.