William Galston, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said he was struck by Obama's emphasis in his second inaugural address on social issues rather than economic ones, even as the president sought to draw a line between them.
Galston described Obama's message as a call for "equality though inclusion" for gay people, for women in the workforce, and even for those alienated from politics by long voting lines and other obstacles to participation.
"But I find it difficult to believe that the balance he will seek to strike in the State of the Union will be the same balance he struck in the second inaugural," said Galston, who is now at the Brookings Institution. "The emphasis will almost certainly be on the economy rather than on social issues. They are looking at the same America that I am."
With fights over spending, taxes and deficits looming between Obama and Republicans on Capitol Hill, the president is likely to revisit the argument over government's role at a time of economic uncertainty and growing inequality. He will probably do so, his advisers say, in the context of Washington politics hindering economic progress.
In the first State of the Union of his second term, Reagan called for "a second American revolution" and declared that "four years ago we began to change, forever I hope, our assumptions about government and its place in our lives."
Reagan made clear to Congress and the public that his goal would be to revise what he called an overly burdensome tax code — which he, like Obama has, criticized in part for having too many loopholes.
But Washington's partisanship during Obama's tenure has had a more profound effect on the economy and its recovery than it did when Reagan began his second term.