The Washington Post's Tom Shales writes that Obama "doesn't seem capable of bad speeches. Although this one began after unfortunate delays and with a slight parliamentary slip-up, he maintained his admirably high standards with a kind of state-of-the-Union speech that wasn't officially a State of the Union speech." More: "His speeches will always make news, but the fact that he's a pretty great communicator is no longer a revelation. So after perfecting a style, and having given a speech last night that was full of practical content, there isn't much further he can go as a speechmaker."
Per Politico's Roger Simon, "It was not a night of sugar plum fairies dangled before us or sweet nothings whispered into our ears. We have had plenty of those over the years." More: "And he also spoke of who was to blame: us."
The Boston Globe's Canellos: "President Obama yesterday used the grandest stage of the presidency to reveal how he wants to be seen - as a realist, not an ideologue, as a figure of consensus, not the leader of a movement, as a hard worker grappling with problems, not a visionary seeking new horizons."
The New York Times' editorial page: "If we have had doubts about the way President Obama has been handling the multitudinous disasters bequeathed to him by George W. Bush … it was that we wanted to see more of Barack Obama the candidate in Barack Obama the president. He has not been assertive, ambitious, clear -- or audacious -- enough. Mr. Obama's first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night was his chance to change that, and he rose to the occasion."
Politico's Harris and Martin: "The substance reflected Obama's bet that the country -- alarmed by the economic crisis, repelled by the failures of the president who preceded him --is ready to move in a decisively more liberal direction. The rhetoric, by contrast, reflected his apparent belief that most Americans remain instinctually conservative, leaving him and his agenda acutely vulnerable to backlash." (Question: But isn't Obama's rhetoric more a reflection of not wanting to alienate that conservatives, rather than that "most Americans are instinctually conservative.")