Barack Obama gave an important speech yesterday in Kansas. Most of commentary is focused on Obama's new populism and its relative authenticity, but what interests me about the speech is that it is a message road map for his campaign.

Calling the moment a "make-or-break"one for the middle class, Obama laid out what he wants to be the contrast that will carry him to re-election. The difference, according to the president, is between those who believe success in America relies solely on the "survival of the fittest" versus those who want to build a nation "where we are all better off."

The speech had a powerful moral dimension as well. Quoting Teddy Roosevelt, Mr. Obama said, "we all go up or down together."

It is easy to dismiss the president's speech as containing no new programs, or for skirting any responsibility for the failure of the economy to recover. But I would not underestimate the power of the themes in the speech, especially if the president keeps pounding them. Many Americans believe, as the president says, that the deck has been stacked against them and that the Republican economic policies of more tax cuts for the wealthy and fewer regulations are not going to remedy this imbalance.

There are certainly many ways to counter the president's arguments, and I am sure Ed will do a good job of that. But the Republicans may find it harder to rely on Obama beating himself if the president stays on this new message. Of course, a little more economic good news wouldn't hurt either.