Obama is a boxing fan. So he knows that he did a clinch Tuesday night. How did the president do this? Well, he capitalized on the obvious opportunity in the aftermath of Tucson to call for peace. He honored the rise of a Republican-led House by delivering the most pro-business speech a Democrat has given, since, well, that a Democrat has given. If the measure of success is the number of times he forced Speaker of the House Boehner to clap, the speech was a raging winner.
State of the Union speeches are not about the state of the union. They are about the state of the president. More specifically, they are "state of mind" speeches, in which the president reveals what he thinks the country is thinking. People here in Washington will focus on the sketchy budget numbers he reveals or on the seating arrangement on the floor of the House -- or on budget freezes and debt numbers and troop levels. But the speech is a tight-shot focus on the president in his role as a leader, inspirer, explainer, lightning rod, antagonist and storyteller.