Published January 25, 2012
Tuesday night's State of the Union set the tone for many of the themes we're sure to see President Obama's campaign built around. Saying that we "will not go back" to the days of a reckless Wall Street and out of control health insurance companies while declaring that people who say that America is in decline "don't know what they're talking about" is the strongest and most convincing language Obama has used to defend his record as president.
Yet Obama struck a shrewd balance between defending his record, setting out a vision for the next year and being presidential.
He was able to float above, so to speak, the deeply unpopular Congress he spoke to by highlighting areas of bipartisanship and national unity by using a flag signed by the Navy SEAL team who killed Usama bin Laden as an analogy of the type of cooperation that's missing in the building he was standing in.
Sadly, and not surprisingly, reaction in the Capitol was one sided to even the most agreeable statements. Speaker John Boehner couldn't even get to his feet in agreement when Obama said that "everyone gets a fair shot, everyone pays their fair share, and everyone plays by the rules." And Republicans mystifyingly didn't rise in applause when Obama basically agreed with one of the pillars of their political strategy in saying, "it's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: no bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts."
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who many Republicans wish was closing in on the party's nomination rather than delivering its official response, doubled down on that type of partisanship by whacking Obama for trying to "divide us."
But Obama took the charges of "class warfare" head on in the speech.
"Asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense," the president said. And he's right. Most Americans do agree with that statement.
Obama did take a subtle jab at Mitt Romney who said recently that he believes concern about the disparity between rich and poor is driven by envy.
"When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It's because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference," Obama said.
Some may not have liked seeing the president fire such a salvo on an opponent in such a setting. But that's politics.
And that's the way things are in Washington with just 286 days until the general election. With Romney and Newt Gingrich brawling in primary states, the president did an effective job of setting himself apart from that type of politics. Can he be brought down? Not likely if the GOP demonstrates the stoic and blind opposition we saw Tuesday night.
Joe Trippi is a Democratic campaign consultant and a Fox News contributor.