Expect President Donald Trump to emphasize a strong economy, low unemployment, military successes, and the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada in tonight's State of the Union address before Congress, said three Valley professors of political science.
The speech will take place one day before the Senate is scheduled to vote on his possible removal from office.
"One of the real questions I have," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, "is whether he will mention the impeachment. In 1999, Bill Clinton gave a 78-minute State of the Union speech and his impeachment trial had just opened up in the Senate. Clinton never mentioned impeachment at all. Will Trump bring it up? And if so, what approach will he take?"
Penn State, Behrend College, associate professor of political science Robert Speel doesn't think Trump could tolerate giving a speech without being critical of what he considers an unfair impeachment process.
"His advisors will probably urge him to make such references as subtle and gentle as possible," Speel said.
It's all about the economy
Tonight's speech could be optimistic, Madonna said. "He will certainly focus on the successes he's had with the economy. He will go through the numbers on a variety of things. As part of that he'll mention the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, the USMCA, that Trump considers a very important replacement of NAFTA, which he campaigned against in 2016."
"And if you've seen the Trump commercial about justice and the changes that are taking place in the judicial system, he may talk about reforms in order to appeal to minority voters," Madonna said.
Trump is going into this speech with a little wind in his sails, said Chris Ellis, Bucknell associate professor of political science.
Sticking to script
"The economic satisfaction numbers are really good, and his job approval ratings are basically as high as they've been since he was elected," Ellis said. "He's still underwater in most polls, but it's hard to say that the whole impeachment deal hasn't helped him, if only slightly. I'm assuming we'll see teleprompter Trump tonight, where he will discuss the economic accomplishments, the war on terror successes, and maybe say something about the importance of the next election."
Madonna and Ellis wonder if Trump will stick to that script.
"Notice that on some important speeches he has been able to stick to script," Madonna pointed out. "I'm not saying he will. I'm saying on some important speeches he stayed on point. Whether he does or not, he obviously knows he is going to be acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday, and my understanding from some of my sources is that his folks are really urging him to stick to the script and not talk about impeachment. That doesn't mean he will follow their recommendations."
Given that Trump can frame the impeachment vote the day before it happens, Ellis said, "this would probably be a compelling speech that, to the extent that these speeches matter at all, will help him."
"But," Ellis said, "if he decides to go off-script, with [Nancy] Pelosi on stage and the Democrats sure to be sending some not-so-subtle messages in the audiences, watch out."