With President Trump delivering the third State of the Union speech of his presidency tonight and doing so during a highly politicized and heated time in our nation’s history, it’s only natural that the speech is being painted as his opening salvo for his 2020 re-election campaign. The 2020 Democratic contenders are treating it as such, with at least one candidate planning to give their own rebuttal to the President. The official Democratic Party rebuttal will be delivered by Stacey Abrams, candidate for Georgia Governor who lost a close race in 2018.
Watch State of the Union Live
You can watch it live tonight at 9 pm ET / 6 pm PT right here:
2020 Democrats Campaigning Heavily
Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will be using the occasion to score points against the President tonight, according to Politico:
Sen. Kamala Harris, for instance, invited Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, an air traffic control specialist who was furloughed for more than a month during the government shutdown after losing her home in a California wildfire in 2017.
Another federal worker furloughed during the shutdown will travel to Washington from the Boston area to attend the address as the guest of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the first major Democratic contender to announce an exploratory presidential bid last month. Sajid Shahriar, an employee of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will join the Massachusetts senator.
In a more pointed dig at Trump, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — who joined the White House race in mid-January — invited transgender Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann, an act of protest against the president’s ban on transgender military service.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is mulling a bid, will bring a constituent whose son died because he was unable to afford insulin, stirring discussions of affordable healthcare.
Bringing guests to the State of the Union has become its own form of political theater, and it gives these candidates a chance to push a narrative by personalizing the policies they’re pushing for.
Bernie Sanders Rebuttal
Bernie Sanders, however, will not be satisfied with simply bringing a guest and sitting quietly. Instead, he’s planning to delivery his own rebuttal, as he has for the past couple of years, according to The Hill:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will deliver his own response to President Trump’s speech to Congress on Tuesday for the third year running.
The senator’s office confirmed to The Hill that his response will follow Trump’s State of the Union address as well as the Democratic rebuttal and be streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Sanders has made responding to Trump’s televised addresses a habit, delivering a response to the president’s speech on border security last month in addition to responding to previous speeches to Congress.
Sanders tends to walk to his own drum, and he likes speaking so it’s only natural for him to take the opportunity and capture an audience eager to hear his brand of Democratic-socialism.
SOTU Watching Guide
NBC News provides some things to watch for in tonight’s State of the Union:
1. BIPARTISAN — OR JUST PARTISAN?
Last week, an administration official previewing the president’s speech for reporters said that Trump would call on Republicans and Democrats in Congress to work with him in bipartisan fashion to accomplish joint goals for the country.
2. ENDLESS WAR, OR ENDING WARS?
Trump has been fighting the Washington foreign policy establishment over his plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria.
3. A NEW IMMIGRATION PLAN?
Trump’s efforts to rewrite immigration laws have fallen apart in Congress. He hasn’t gotten any money for the wall he promised to build. He hasn’t been able to get new laws to crack down on illegal immigration. And he hasn’t been able to redesign legal immigration programs to limit the number of migrants and the criteria for allowing them into the country.
4. HOW WILL DEMOCRATS REACT?
On Monday, a handful of Democrats announced that they wouldn’t attend the speech. For those who are in the chamber — especially the set who are running for president — eyes in the press gallery above the House chamber and watching at home will be trained on their reactions to key phrases in Trump’s speech.
5. WATCHING THE WATCHERS
Traditionally, the president invites a series of guests whose presence is designed to underscore points he will make in his speech. Typically, he will pause during his remarks to recognize them and their stories.
Tune in tonight at 9 pm ET (6 pm PT).