Some strong dissents to my live-blogging:
I have been reading your blog for many many years and have never felt so strongly that you've misread this one. Maybe I've just watched too many (all) of the GOP debates, but this struck me as exactly what was needed.
I fear you've missed the big picture. Odd given your "long game" Obama argument. These little proposals cost Obama nothing. Some may get passed, most will not. All the better to contrast against a "do nothing" congress.
The important part of the speech was Obama's defense of his actions and/or pointing out where congress didn't act in the last 3 years. It was forceful (negating the "weak" argument of Republican candidates) and gave Obama the opportunity to educate the public about the fact that the economy is growing and America is far better off than Romney or Gingrich assert. I also liked the "don't know what they are talking about" dig on the Republican presidential pretenders.
As for the final military analogy. I kind of agree with you, but here I think your British roots are showing. That's 100% American heartland code. Pure and simple. Obama is using his credibility as Commander in Chief of the Bin Laden raid to assert his strength and further his argument that the Republican nihilists have slowed down economic recovery.
All in all, the speech did what is was supposed to: set the stage for the campaign, assert the argument that things are getting better, draw contrasts between Obama and the Republican candidates, and set congress up as the boogie man. Exciting, no, rhetorically soaring, nope. But workmanlike.
Team Obama is aware that he probably only gets two unfiltered chances to describe to voters his case: tonight and the convention speech. The vision you are looking for will come over the next several months then be fully described at the convention.
What crawled up your ass and died tonight?
After consistently advocating the long view of Obama's politics, you can't recognize a tactical campaign speech when you see one? The laundry list of promises was vintage Clinton (a guy who did pert dang well amongst indies), it threw red meat to a dispirited base, and it consistently undercut the GOP case against him as an anti-American anti-jobs socialist. Sure he pandered, but that's what politicians do, and the audience that he was talking to – those who've tuned out for the last 3 years, will recognize none of the caricatures that Limbaugh and crew have been weaving out of thin air – they'll see a fighter for the average American. Nice framing for an election.
But one in agreement:
I'm sorry but being seen giving a really crappy speech you don't believe isn't what I look for in Obama. He's seems like he's playing scared again. He sounded like a politician. That's a great way to distinguish yourself from Romney and Newt.
More reader reaction here.