Grading President Barack Obama's Speech:
Presentation/Delivery: A-. Obama's delivery was focused, well-crafted, and sounded like he believed in the policies he's advocating -- policies that create a level playing field, achieve fairness, reward hard work and initiative, and that help create new jobs based in the United States.
I intend to fight obstruction with action, Obama said.
We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.
Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.
My message is simple. It's time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I'll sign them right away.
I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you - America will always win.
Content/Substance: B+. Obama struck struck the correct balance between inspiration and practical ideas -- combined with the realpolitick power that is the presidency -- to let Congressional Republicans know: he wants a more-fair America, more-perfect union for all Americans: young, old, working-class and upper-income.
I'll oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place, Obama said.
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits, Obama said. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last -- an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
And, he borrowed a page from former President Bill Clinton's political playbook: deploy populist themes, without using the phrase populist.
President Bill Clinton said: If you work hard, play by the rules, you out to be able to earn enough to live a decent life.
On Tuesday night President Obama said, Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same.
Overall State of the Union Grade: B+
Up Ahead In An Election Year: Hard Work
Still, an effective presentation and a substantive, positive speech never is enough, in and of itself -- and will not be enough in 2012 -- to determine the outcome of a presidential election.
In other words, whether you thought President Obama gave a great speech Tuesday night or not, Obama's re-election chances in November will hinge on his administration's ability to fix the economy, all other factors being equal. Moving forward, inadequate job growth of 150,000 jobs per month or less, and Obama probably will be voted out of office; adequate job growth above 200,000 jobs per month, and Obama will likely be re-elected.
Hence, Obama in 2012 faces, arguably, one of the most daunting first-term election years in the modern/postmodern era. Having inherited the financial crisis and the nation's worst recession on inauguration day 2009, Obama was then compelled to offer a smaller fiscal stimulus than what many Keynesian economists said would be necessary to get the U.S. economy growing at a strong rate. The result? Two and a half years in to the economic recovery, a sub-adequate GDP growth rate has left the U.S. with an unacceptably high unemployment rate of 8.5 percent. The nation is also short at least 10 million full-time jobs.
Part of the responsibility for that high unemployment rate rests with the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, the other factor in Washington's gridlock. But that doesn't and won't matter for U.S. voters, who historically see the U.S. president as manager of the economy and hold him/her responsible for its performance. In sum, Obama has about eight months to rev-up GDP growth and create jobs, and the state of the union address is but the first step that outlines how he intends to successfully complete that enormous task.