Before the president took to the podium Wednesday evening, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs advised the press his memorial speech would run less than 20 minutes and would focus on the memory of the victims.
Politico's Roger Simon received an advanced copy of the speech along with members of the press. "On paper, it was written for a much more solemn setting. It was written for the National Cathedral," he said Thursday.
Mr. Obama's remarks, which called for the audience and entire country not to "use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another," were frequently interrupted by applause and went on for over a half hour.
"Instead it was 14,000 kids in a gymnasium," Simon said. "No one expected whistling and hooting and cheering."
"The president got pumped up in a way, a rally-esque way, that I don't think anybody really expected," CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid, who was at the University of Arizona for the speech, said Thursday.
In an appearance on "Washington Unplugged" with CBS News senior political analyst John Dickerson, Reid said the general consensus is that the president "really pulled it off here."
Sources at the White House indicated to Reid that Mr. Obama wrote 80 to 90 percent of the speech, and then sent the draft to speechwriter Cody Keenan. "In the end, it is his words," Reid said.
"There have been complaints in the past calling him Spock-like, emotionally detached, remote," Reid said from the White House North Lawn. "Those days are over."
Reid characterized the speech as a turning point for Mr. Obama. "From the very first day, he was already out there, making both points- one what a horrible tragedy this is... and also made that hinge, that turn on how do we honor their memory and what do we do to make for a more civil debate."
Also at the center of the debate on the politicization of the Arizona shooting is Sarah Palin, who has drawn criticism over use of the word "blood libel" in a video she released Wednesday morning about the shooting in which she responsed to her critics who have tried to put some blame of the shooting on the rhetoric used by former Alaska governor.
Simon called Palin's timing "terrible." "You can't beat the president in a speech contest."
"Her use of violent language and blood libel versus the president's heartbreaking image of a nine year old girl splashing in a puddle in heaven... That's the difference between someone who gets elected president and someone who merely wants to be elected president," he said.
As for Mr. Obama's message of civility, Politico's chief political columnist said there are "a few hopeful signs today."
"If there is and I sense there is, a certain amount of public outrage at the behavior of all of us- the media, lawmakers, ourselves- in just how we have been conducting ourselves in the last 12 months, that might have an affect," Simon concluded on the comforter-in-chief's words.
CBS News' Kaylee Hartung also profiled "hero intern" Daniel Hernandez on Thursday's "Washington Unplugged" in a special edition of the series "Unplugged, Under 40." Watch the full show above.
Text of Obama's Speech