Joseph R. Biden delivers his first State of the Union address tonight, although in a president's first year in office these speeches are officially known as addresses to a joint session of Congress. But presidential scholars view them as the new chief executive's State of the Union speech, and most journalists do as well. Whatever they are called, Joe Biden has attended dozens of them: He served six terms in the Senate and was vice president for eight years as well. And now, at age 78, he will enter that storied chamber as the commander-in-chief and ascend to the podium as the 46th president of the United States.
During his 36 years on Capitol Hill, Biden was considered verbose even by U.S. senator standards, which is saying something. Tonight, though, the microphone is all his.
I'm obliged to mention that South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is delivering the Republican rebuttal. This is an odd custom, albeit not a new one: Dating to 1966, it is billed as the opposition party's "response" to the State of the Union speech. The obvious problem is that it has to be written before the president speaks, so it's not much of a response, although it did help produce a quirky addition to American English -- the word "prebuttal." I covered them for years and can remember little other than Marco Rubio gulping from a water bottle and Bobby Jindal getting panned (though I can't recall anything specific Jindal did wrong). It's the format that often sinks them.
Another bit of SOTU trivia: Three politicians have delivered both the State of the Union and, in a previous job, their party's response. They are Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Tonight, Joe Biden will become the fourth.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.