State Of The Union: Obama Vows To Create Jobs
Barack Obama says America's sluggish economy can only get back on track through a "rising, thriving middle class".
In his annual State of the Union address the American President outlined his plans for the coming year with the economy riding high on the agenda.
He said: "A growing economy that creates good, middle class jobs - that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.
"Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?"
He went on to lay out specific proposals, including initiatives and investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and clean energy - all capable, he insists, of reaping dividends without swelling the deficit.
"Let me repeat - nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth," the President said.
Senator Marco Rubio delivered the traditional rebuttal in his official opposition response to the President's speech. Mr Rubio is widely regarded as a new star of the waning Republican Party and in his address he criticised what he called Mr Obama's "obsession" with raising taxes.
"The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs," he said.
Senator Rubio also delivered his speech in Spanish, marking the first ever bilingual response to the President's address and reiterating his image as a modern Republican and possible saviour of the party.
A pre-speech Twitter photo posted by the White House showed President Obama making last-minute changes to his speech, most notably a response to North Korea's latest nuclear test, one of the few deviations from a distinctly domestic agenda.
"The regime in North Korea must know that they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations.
"Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defence, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats," Mr Obama said.
The President also offered some news that few will not welcome.
"Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."
He went from one of the least divisive issues to the one that splits America - gun control. With many of those who have been directly affected by gun violence in the audience, it made for a moment of heightened emotion.
"Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote."
Starting in North Carolina the President is now taking his message across America. It's a hard sell that has to bring results.