There were solid economic measures in this speech. And how they work out will determine the president's popularity more than his words. But the words were striking.
He tried to recapture his mantle as a man who would bring change to Washington, lecturing, scolding the politicians before him and talking of the numbing weight of politics, the frustration of Washington where every day was election day and of people's deep and corrosive doubts about the process of politics.
He suggested that setbacks he'd suffered, like healthcare, were because he put the public good before popularity.
Cross-party co-operation - bipartisanhip - is highly prized by Americans and he called on Republicans not just to say "no" but to show leadership and serve the citizens, not their ambitions.
Of course he is trying to box them in, daring them to vote against potentially popular measures such as curbing lobbyists, promoting new jobs and toughening banking rules.
Talk about the tactics and the power play is very much inside the Beltway and his tone may have some impact on how he is seen. But it'll be his plans for the economy that will really drive the voters' perception of him.