Republicans have good reason to believe that President Obama’s goals in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night were more partisan than presidential.

Mr. Obama has shifted into full-bore campaigning. He expects little from Congress this year beyond the extension of existing payroll tax cuts. His highest-profile initiatives are designed to enhance his re-election prospects.

Where Republicans stand on shakier ground is in their assessment of Mr. Obama’s ultimate destination. On arguably the principal conflict between the two parties — over paring long-term debt and deficits — the president can still stake a stronger claim to the political center than his Republican antagonists.

Polls show that Mr. Obama’s budget positions are closer to those of most voters than the Republican positions are. His ultimate goal, advisers say, remains a bipartisan deficit deal along the lines of the one he nearly negotiated with Speaker John A. Boehner.

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