President Obama displayed a renewed sense of vigor and determination in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, telling Congress that with or without them he was going to take action to improve the economy. As Aaron Blake reported:

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.

Seeking to build off the momentum of his address, the President is embarking on a tour of critical swing states to bring his economic message to the fore of his reelection message. As David Nakamura explained:

President Obama got to work selling his State of the Union economic proposals to the public Wednesday, launching a five-state tour that opened with a push in the American heartland to lure manufacturing jobs back from overseas.

Making a first stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Obama told workers at the Conveyor Engineering & Manufacturing company that American productivity is rising, and he called on Congress to eliminate tax loopholes that encourage companies to send jobs and profits abroad.

“We are as competitive as we’ve ever been,” said Obama, who was due later to appear at a microprocessor manufacturing and engineering company in Phoenix. “And for a lot of these companies, it’s starting to make a lot of sense to bring jobs back home. We must seize the opportunity to help these companies succeed.”

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Obama said his “blueprint” for a stronger economy begins with manufacturing, a message aimed at the Rust Belt voters who were wooed successfully in his 2008 bid for the White House but who have been among the most dissatisfied with the sluggish economic recovery.

Many analysts see the economy as the most critical in Obama’s effort to be reelected for a second term, and his emphasis on economic equality in his address seemed to be no accident. As Steve Mufson reported:

For election-watchers who think presidential races are always about “the economy, stupid,” it didn’t matter much what President Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. One way or another, the tepid state of the economy is going to make the presidential election a nail-biter.

If the economic recovery continued to putter along at its current rate, Obama probably would win 50.17 percent of the vote in November, according to a statistical model by Yale University economics professor Ray C. Fair, who has been studying the relationship between presidential elections and the economy for three decades.

The only politically viable action big and immediate enough to move the needle would be an extension of a payroll tax cut, which Fair predicted would boost the economy enough to add 1.6 percentage points to Obama’s electoral margin.

“The thing Obama doesn’t have going for him . . . is that he doesn’t have any real strong growth quarters,” he said, adding that “2012 is really critical. It does truly matter what the per-capita growth rate is in the next three quarters.”

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