President Obama’s most memorable line in Tuesday’s State of the Union address came when he uttered these three words: “America is back.”

But really, what he was saying is: ‘I’m back.’

The swagger which Obama rode into office with was back in his address Tuesday. The president, emboldened by some positive jobs numbers and an improving (if still not good) personal approval rating, sounded every bit the part of a president with political capital to spend.

It’s an Obama we haven’t seen in a while.

“The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now,” Obama said at the outset.

On Michigan: “Tonight, the American auto industry is back.”

On the country: “America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Strong words from a president with an economy that is just off the brink of further collapse. And risky ones at that.

By pitching the country as back on the right track, Obama is essentially counting on progress for the rest of the year.

The fact is, if things get worse than they are now, Republicans have video of Obama hailing the return of the country a scant nine months before the election.

Immediately after Obama’s address, the GOP set about assuring the American people that his view was too rosy.

“When President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) said in the official Republican response.

Daniels moved on to acknowledge that the economic hard times predated Obama’s tenure — a not-so-insignificant concession from the GOP — but argued that he has failed to pull the country out of the mess.

“The president did not cause the economic and fiscal crises that continue in America tonight,” Daniels said. “But he was elected on a promise to fix them, and he cannot claim that the last three years have made things anything but worse.”

This is truly the battleground of the 2012 presidential race.

We can obsess over and over again about which GOP presidential candidate is electable and who has liabilities, but in the end, the perception of the economy is the No. 1 factor when it comes to ballots cast in November.

With just more than nine months until Judgement Day, the two sides went about beginning that debate Tuesday.

Applause to make its triumphant return Thursday: Newt Gingrich seemed lost at Monday’s debate thanks to a ban (that was actually enforced, for once) on clapping.

Well, it looks like he won’t have that problem again. CNN, in response to complaints from Gingrich’s campaign about that lack of audience response Monday, says it will continue its practice of allowing applause at Thursday’s debate.

“As we have done in the past, CNN will ask the audience to be respectful of the candidates,” a CNN spokesperson said. “We have always said that if audience reaction such as shouting or booing interferes with the debate or with the candidates’ answers, we will ask the audience to refrain.”

We noted Tuesday morning that Gingrich was a different person at the debate in Tampa. We’ll see Thursday if the old Newt makes a comeback.

Romney defends banks: Not content to merely defend corporations, Mitt Romney on Tuesday set about defending banks as well.

“Now, the banks aren’t bad people,” Romney said, according to the Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman. “They’re just overwhelmed right now. They’re overwhelmed with a lot of things. One is a lot of homes coming in right now that are in foreclosure or in trouble and the other is with a massive new pile of regulations.”

This, of course, harkens back to Romney’s “corporations are people” comment and, we have to say, continues to make Romney look like the candidate of the political establishment.

For whatever reason, Romney seems to be owning that mantle and downright embracing it.

George Romney met Saul Alinsky: Now we know why Gingrich has been talking so much about Saul Alinsky.

It turns out the community organizer and liberal hero can be tied to the Romney family; he met Romney’s father George Romney back in 1967 as the then-Michigan governor was dealing with the fallout of riots in Detroit.

OK, maybe that’s not really why Gingrich keeps talking about Alinsky, but it’s interesting nonetheless.


Gingrich takes a lead in the Gallup national tracking poll, continuing his surge.

Gingrich suggests his personal foibles may actually make him more electable.

Gingrich’s campaign says he has raised $2 million since Saturday’s win in South Carolina.

Rick Santorum plays up his more humble roots.

Kentucky’s new congressional map may be decided by the courts, with the split state legislature failing to reach a compromise.

Michigan’s map gets the go-ahead from the Justice Department.

Democrats take an 11-point lead on the general ballot in a new National Journal poll.

West Virginia may soon create the office of lieutenant governor. Currently the state Senate president is second-in-line, which meant then-state Senate president Earl Ray Tomblin (D) became acting governor when Gov. Joe Manchin (D) was elected to the Senate in 2010. Tomblin was elected governor in his own right last year.

A new poll conducted for freshman Rep. Mo Brooks’s (R-Ala.) campaign shows him holding a massive lead over the man he beat in a 2010 primary, party-switching former congressman Parker Griffith

Mark Kelly won’t run for the open seat that his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), is leaving behind.

Pennsylvania state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R) changes his mind and won’t seek the GOP nomination in the state’s new 12th district, where Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz are running a primary against each other.

Also in Pennsylvania, moderate Rep. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) got a primary challenge to go along with his much-bluer new district.

Freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) avoids a primary with state Sen. Greg Ball (R).


Why Democrats Think the GOP Race Might Last Until June” — Jake Tapper, ABC News

In Obama’s address, a gift of timing” — Peter Wallsten, Washington Post