Obama's newfound, or regained, optimism is likely to go over well with the American people - especially in contrast with the "official" Republican response, given by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and the Tea Party's "unofficial" response by over-the-edge Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Both Ryan and Bachmann threw cold water on everything Obama had just said, instead painting the future as a bleak, desperate place of inconceivable debt and taxes.

The very sober Ryan sounded a lot like the dour Republican Charlie Baker opposing Patrick last year.

If that race was truly a prologue, and if America is ready to choose optimism over gloom, then this was a very smart kickoff for the Obama re-election effort.

But that doesn't mean that the concerns of Ryan and the Republicans can be dismissed. America's problems are serious, and it is far from clear that this administration - or anyone - can guarantee solutions. No clear roadmap was offered - although there were plenty of good ideas on their own merits, such as extending the tuition tax credit, passing the DREAM Act, making corporate taxation more equitable, and investing in new-industry development.

Short shrift was given to foreign policy, especially the war in Afghanistan. And intractable problems such as closing Guantanamo were ignored. The word out of the White House is that Obama took a pass on the issue of gun control because he plans to dedicate a special speech to that. Let us hope he does.

After 24 months in office, the last 18 of which have been especially bruising - to Obama, his administration, and the nation — Obama used his State of the Union to recalibrate his presidency. It may not have been a fresh start, but it was a good beginning.

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