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State of the Union preview

Advisors say the president's speech is running about 40 minutes, not counting applause. Brian anchors NBC News coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET and expected to last at least an hour.

The president is rehearsing in the family theater at the White House. The speech has been revised more than 30 times and every word change generates a new draft. Advisors say the president has been personally involved in editing since the very early drafts. About a half dozen speech writers have been working the text. We'll have fact sheets about the speech in the early afternoon, excerpts at about 5:30 p.m. ET and full text as prepared for delivery by 8 p.m.


Advisors describe the address as centered on a "handful" of issues, as opposed to a so-called "laundry list" of proposals. They say the focus is on areas where both parties can work together. Here's what I've been able to glean from advisors so far in terms of specifics. Words or phrases in quotes were used by the advisors in their conversations with me.

Iraq: The president will give a "relatively short" "justification" for his troop increase. They say because an entire prime time speech was devoted to the new plan two weeks ago, the president will not dwell on many specifics. They expect the House chamber could be "quiet" but they do not anticipate any rude reaction even though the war policy is unpopular.

War on terror: The president will talk about larger issues of the "ideological struggle" against terrorism in which advisors acknowledge both parties have more agreement.

Health care reform: Advisors use the example of the cell phone industry as a model of what healthcare reform could look like: Competition has driven down costs and provided more options for the consumer. That is not to say the president will use that analogy in his address, but he will call for making employer-paid health care coverage taxable income that might be offset by a standard tax deduction for purchasing health insurance. The proposal is already facing sharp criticism. The White House considers it a "bold" proposal.

Energy: The president will talk about incentives for reducing harmful emissions, but will not advocate any caps. He will encourage alternative fuels and argue that cleaner fuels will automatically improve the environment. Described as a more "holistic" approach to energy security and climate change.

Education: The president will ask Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.

Immigration: The president will again argue for a guest worker program along with border security.

Advisors declined to talk about the guests in the first lady's box tonight and how the president will mention them tonight.