(Kevin Lamarque / Courtesy Reuters)

Tonight, as he delivers his third State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama will stress economics. And that makes good political sense. Election Day is just nine months away, and jobs dwarf all other public concerns. Indeed, it must unnerve the White House that no president in the modern era has been reelected while unemployment stood above 7.2 percent. Today, it hovers around 8.5 percent.

What the president says about foreign policy, however, will be equally important to his reelection chances. With more than 40 million viewers expected to tune into the speech -- the largest audience he will have until he addresses the Democratic National Convention in September -- he has an unparalleled opportunity to argue that his handling of foreign policy merits a second term. He will surely make the most of it.

The good news for Obama is that he can talk about

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  • JAMES M. LINDSAY is Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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