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A lighting crew sets up TV lights in Statuary Hall. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Taking advantage of what's likely to be his largest audience of the year, President Trump plans to use tonight's State of the Union address to pitch an unlikely message of bipartisanship and to sell policy ideas that his advisers think can be "70-30" issues across the country.

The big picture: The theme of the speech will be "choosing American greatness" — with the subtext being Trump's argument that Democrats should abandon their resistance against him and work together on a few things they should be able to agree on.

White House officials gave a detailed preview last evening to conservative allies, including policy experts and media commentators. Trump and Vice President Pence dropped by, attendees say.

  1. A big part will go to foreign policy, and diplomatic and military efforts abroad, including Trump's drive to exit "endless foreign wars" and his push for regime change in Venezuela.
  2. Trump will renew his push to lower prescription drug prices — likely one of his few applause lines for Democrats — and to mitigate the opioid epidemic.
  3. Administration officials say he plans to tie health and drug policy to immigration and the border, arguing that drugs are pouring across.
  4. Trump will cast his trade agenda through the eyes of American workers, contending that he'll put American priorities first.
  5. He'll also push on infrastructure spending, an early part of his agenda that fell as a priority.

In the new Democratic House, Trump's biggest applause line of the night may come when he greets Speaker Pelosi, sitting behind him, as "Madam Speaker."

  • Past that, Democrats are skeptical of the message of unity and bipartisanship that underpins White House previews of the speech.
  • "The message is fine," said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank. "The messenger is preposterous."
  • "I guarantee that by 10 a.m. tomorrow, he'll do something that's 100% at odds with the spirit of the speech."

Between the lines: The 2020 Democratic guest list says a lot about the messaging, Axios' Alexi McCammond notes.

  • Sen. Cory Booker invited a former prisoner from Chicago who was released by the bipartisan criminal justice reform First Step Act that became law in December.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand invited a transgender Navy lieutenant commander who would be affected by Trump's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris invited a woman who lost her home in the Thomas Fire in California and is an air traffic control specialist who was furloughed during the shutdown.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren invited a federal employee who was furloughed during the recent government shutdown.
  • Go deeper on the guest lists

The bottom line: Don't expect to get to bed early. Trump's speech last year was the 3rd-longest State of the Union in history at 80 minutes, just 9 shy of the record set by Bill Clinton.

Go deeper: Bookmark this link for our full State of the Union coverage

Go deeper

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.