* A little flattery goes a long way. Despite the fact that relations between Obama and Congress are bad and won't be getting any better anytime soon, the president did show a deftness he either didn't possess or chose not to wield in years past when he praised House Speaker John Boehner as an example of the American Dream. "Here in America, our success should not depend on an accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams," Obama said. "That's what drew our forebears here ... [that's] how the son of a barkeep is speaker of the House." Cue huge and sustained applause and a surprised (and undoubtedly flattered) Boehner. Would a few more flourishes like that one thrown Boehner's way have made any difference in the duo's now-frosty relationship? Maybe not. But it sure wouldn't have hurt.
* Immigration is our only hope. Obama's rhetoric -- guarded, hopeful, insistent -- on immigration reform suggests that he genuinely believes there is a possibility of getting something major-ish done on the issue this year. "Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted," Obama said. "I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same." That's an olive branch extension if ever we've heard one. Will/can House Republican leaders -- many of whom applauded Obama's line on immigration -- grasp it?
* A health-care showdown: If you were wondering whether President Obama would back down on highlighting the good that he believes has come from the Affordable Care Act, you got your answer -- in a major way -- tonight. "Let's not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of Americans," Obama scolded, repeating the 40 votes line for emphasis. Top Republican congressional aides immediately took to Twitter -- natch! -- insisting they welcomed a fight on Obamacare. One wonders what Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor or Alaska Sen. Mark Begich were thinking at that moment.
* Gun control's disappearing act: Remember that the emotional centerpiece of Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech was his insistence that the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., had changed the dynamic of guns in our culture and his demand that the victims of that shooting -- and others like it -- get a simple up-or-down vote. That up-or-down vote never happened. And, this year, Obama paid little more than lip service to gun violence -- devoting a single paragraph buried in the middle of the speech to the topic.