The central unacknowledged problem the Republican party faces, which was revealed by the last election, is the failure of its economic message to connect with voters’ economic suffering. President Obama gave what I think was a politically effective speech. Voters would come away remembering several new ideas that connect — like the idea of getting a community-college degree alongside a high-school diploma for free, a federal effort to reduce tuition costs, and of course raising the minimum wage, which in spite of its being bad economics, is enormously popular (including with Republicans) and at least seems relevant to what people are experiencing: a loss of purchasing power alongside a loss of job security.
The GOP’s job is to make President Obama own the economy he created by explaining in a persuasive way why we have no real recovery after four years of Obamanomics — and then offer a choice, not an echo. Senator Rubio emoted visibly his compassion and concern for the middle class, but his speech was light on explanations for why our economy is failing, and light on answers that do not sound like conservative bromides.
Kudos to the president for proposing reducing the marriage penalties for low-income couples and for blending that into a values-based appeal. We hear him as a man of the Left, but the average American will not hear this speech that way.