The AP's Ron Fournier: "Humility. Check. Bipartisanship, debt reduction, populist anger. Check. Check. Check. More jobs? On it. President Barack Obama checked every political box needed to restart his troubled presidency Wednesday night, but that may not be enough to consider his State of Union address a success."
"In Wednesday night's State of the Union speech, a vigorous and confident Obama showed he isn't losing much sleep over what vocal liberals think of him -- or increasingly vitriolic GOPers," the New York Daily News' Greenman adds. "Obama proved reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. He delivered a forward-leaning address that was both unapologetic about left-of-center values and unquestionably centrist on policy. … Obama's tone was positive. He spoke with urgency and optimism. There was a spark. There was a swagger."
The New York Times' Peter Baker: "It was a confident performance, more defiant than contrite, more conversational than soaring. He appealed to and scolded both parties, threatened vetoes, blamed his predecessor and poked fun at lawmakers. The agenda was largely the same, dressed up in fresh packaging, as he offered point-by-point rebuttals to the litany of critiques he hears with increasing frequency. He acknowledged only a failure to explain his policies without retreating an inch on the policies themselves. His main message: 'I don't quit.'"
The Times' Stanley: "He is known for giving eloquent speeches, and also for a professorial coolness when explaining policy details. Wednesday night, Mr. Obama used a mix of humor and stern exhortation to remind voters why they elected him — even as he promised that he would not let electoral politics derail economic reform. It was a populist message delivered with patrician restraint, a presidential performance tinged with a little of the anti-establishment zeal of the Tea Party movement — a Green Tea movement. 'And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it's that we all hated the bank bailout,' Mr. Obama said. 'I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.'"
The Washington Post's Tom Shales: "The president came on strong, breathing fire before the assembled members of the House and Senate. 'We don't quit, I don't quit,' Obama said of Americans and himself during the stirring final moments of the speech, which took 71 minutes to deliver from the House chamber -- and which was carried live on broadcast and news networks… There was humility but no remorse in Obama's words or the way in which he delivered them. He hailed and commended American values and seemed also to personify some of them -- directness, candor, neighborliness. At moments he was less the man in the White House than the guy next door."
Politico's John Harris: "In a favorable light, his State of the Union speech may have revealed the mind of a leader who has never cared much about traditional ideological categories and is determined to create his own results-oriented composite of ideas from across the spectrum. Less charitably, the address could be interpreted as the work of a president who is desperately improvising by touching every political erogenous zone he and his advisers can think of. Under either judgment, however, it was inescapable that his 69-minute speech — for all the rush of words and policy ideas — was a document of downsized ambitions for a downsized moment in his presidency."
Larry Sabato touches on the pessimism for this president and Washington in general right now, giving Obama a B- on his speech last night: "Obama always gives a fine speech, but after a less-than-stellar year in office, he has less effect. Tastes great, less filling. ... Lots of good lines and good ideas, but it didn't quite work. There were too many promises, but too little mandate left to fulfill them."