It seems like the presidential race for 2012 has been going on for a long time.
But Rice University Political Science Chair Mark Jones says this is where the race really begins.
"Tonight we'll see the true kick-off for the 2012 presidential race. Now clearly, the president's been campaigning for quite a while, this you can look at though as a nationwide launch of that campaign. At the same time, however, the president needs to strike a balance between being in campaign mode but also continuing to be the president of all Americans."
Jones says President Obama must strike a balance between running for reelection without seeming overly partisan. He'll likely spend much of his speech talking about the economy and the deadlock between Democrats and Republicans over raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
"So in many ways what we're seeing tonight will be a signal of what type of campaign and what issues is President Obama going to campaign on against his Republican opponent starting now, but will become particularly intense once we hit August, September and October and then of course November."
An estimated 40 million people will watch the president's speech tonight. That's compared to the three to five million who have tuned in for each of the Republican debates.