The speech was skillfully crafted to avoid any overt re-election rhetoric, but it gave the president the largest audience he will have to cast his record of the last three years in the most favorable light. He also acknowledged the nation remains in the grip of economic problems, but said its better than it was and he's got an extensive strategy for making it better still.
"The state of our Union is getting stronger," declared Mr. Obama. "And we've come too far to turn back now." He spent more than an hour discussing his approach to moving the nation forward.State of the Union: Obama, GOP battle to frame 2012 fight
Relying on his sizeable rhetorical skills, the president devoted most of his speech to the economy, laying out plans for creating jobs, including:
Scratch the surface of his State of the Union and key elements of his political fundraising speeches could be heard.
He reminded Congress and the nation of the auto industry bailout he arranged. "We bet on American workers," he said. "We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back."
He called for more government funding to rebuild crumbling bridges, roadways and schools. He suggested that half the money no longer needed for the war in Iraq be used to pay down the debt and the rest for "some nation-building right here at home."He spoke of his determination to help states and localities keep from laying off teachers while at the same time demanding more be done to keep kids from dropping out. (watch the full speech at left)
He served notice on college and university leaders: "If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."
He reaffirmed support for immigration reform while portraying himself as tough on border enforcement.
He offered a new plan to help troubled homeowners refinance their mortgages while keeping the banking industry in line: "No bailouts, no handouts and no copouts," declared Mr. Obama.
And he made clear he would not stand for the repeal of his controversial programs led by health care reform.
Further, he spoke with new determination for his long-stated plan to get the richest Americans to pay higher taxes.
Mr. Obama even invited Buffett's secretary to be in the House Chamber and watch the speech from the First Lady's box.
In speech after speech over the last year - Mr. Obama called on the rich to be made to pay their "fair share."
And he finally put a number to that phrase declaring:
"If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes."
He acknowledged that Congress may be unwilling to enact the lengthy agenda he put forward, but he wanted to sound like the "warrior of the middle class" that he sees as his path to a second term.
"I intend to fight obstruction with action," he told Congress to its face.
And as candidates know, if you can't win an election by delivering on your agenda, you can often win by running against those you blame for blocking your plans.
And with his campaign in mind, the president takes his State of the Union plan on a three day swing starting Wednesday to five battleground states he needs to win re-election: Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan.
The trip is billed as official presidential business and it won't cost his campaign a nickel.