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Inside Politics

Bush rehearses for State of the Union address

Aides say he will defend war in Iraq

President Bush is expected to defend his decision to go to war in Iraq during his State of the Union address Tuesday.
President Bush is expected to defend his decision to go to war in Iraq during his State of the Union address Tuesday.

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A preview of what can be expected in President Bush's State of the Union address.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For the second day in a row, President Bush practiced his State of the Union address Monday, running through the approximately 50-minute address twice in front of his advisers with the help of a TelePrompTer, a senior administration official said.

On Sunday, after returning to the White House from Camp David, Bush spent the afternoon practicing the speech in the White House theater.

Longtime adviser Karen Hughes, Chief of Staff Andy Card, chief speechwriter Michael Gerson and Communications Director Dan Bartlett were present for both days of practice.

Bush spent time Saturday at Camp David reviewing the speech with top aides as well.

Aides said he will lay out his presidential legislative priorities and his international priorities and will not deliver a political speech. But CNN has learned that the speech is crafted to make Bush's case for a second term and rebut attacks from Democratic candidates for president.

Aides say Bush will defend his decision to go to war in Iraq, countering the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found and U.S. troops continue to be killed there.

Bush will make the case that the United States faces a real threat of another terrorist attack, aides said.

The president will focus on domestic issues and the economy, crediting his tax cuts for bringing the economy out of recession, and arguing that they should be made permanent.

Another senior administration official said the speech will contain a bill that will focus on job training and retraining for the unemployed.

Day after Iowa caucuses

The president's political advisers are hoping an upbeat, uninterrupted address to the nation one night after Monday's Iowa caucuses will provide a contrast to Democrats, who are engaged in high-stakes political battles for the chance to challenge Bush.

Bush also will urge Congress to change the law so that a portion of Social Security payroll taxes can be invested in the stock market and other private investments accounts. He will reiterate his recent call for a temporary guest worker program under which millions of illegal immigrants could get temporary legal status in the United States.

And he will support proposals to reduce health care costs.

With a $500 billion budget deficit that angers Democrats and alarms a number of fiscal conservatives in his own party, Bush will be limited in how much he can offer in new, election-year initiatives.

The contents of the speech have been decided, in large part, by the administration's budget priorities, because the president faces a February 1 deadline to propose a spending blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October.

--CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash and Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this story.

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