"What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is election day," he said. "It is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people."
If his words inspired a spirit of bipartisanship, it dissipated within minutes.
On a CBS news Webcast right after the speech, Katie Couric asked Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Eric Cantor if they could work together with the president.
"I think where the American people are is they are frustrated with the direction of this president's agenda," Cantor said.
The search for common ground continued as they were asked about the president's proposal to give community banks $30 billion so they can extend credit to struggling small businesses.
"We don't need to create a Washington program to show a small business how to hire people," Cantor said.
Durbin's reply: "Katie, my colleague from Virginia voted twice to give a bailout to the biggest banks. Now when we take the money and want to give it to community banks to help small businesses he says no it's not an emergency we're not going to do it."
"I'm so encouraged by the progress we seem to be making," Couric quipped.
Watch the Webcast:
Part of the problem is a genuine difference in philosophies.
But Democrats complain that Republicans reflexively say no, even to proposals that are GOP mainstays. Republicans argue they haven't been given a true seat at the table.
They don't need us to pass legislation," House Minority Leader John Boehner said. "We want to work with them, but there's been no outreach all year."
It doesn't help, Republicans say, that in the same speech where he called for bipartisanship, the president also took several swipes at their party - saying their consistent opposition to his policies constituted a lack of leadership.