Liberals have wanted a full-throated affirmation of why government is a good thing? Obama delivered, with perhaps his strongest case for a liberal vision of government that he's given so far during his presidency.
Liberals wanted some strong pushback against the substance of Paul Ryan's budget? That's what Obama delivered, describing what will soon be the House GOP budget as a tradeoff between health care on the one hand (for seniors, the disabled, the poor) and tax cuts for the wealthy on the other.
Liberals like to think of themselves as the grown-ups of the budget debate? Obama gave both a budget history lesson and some facts about the composition of the budget that positioned himself -- and liberals -- as serious, compared to those who talk about waste, abuse, and foreign aid.
And then, liberals are
That's what I heard.
I'm not sure it was the right way to go; my advice beforehand was to pitch it not to liberals, but to deficit idealists -- to try to separate deficit idealists from Paul Ryan's plan by emphasizing the importance of real numbers. I believe that's something that Obama really had -- perhaps still has -- a chance to accomplish. He could have tried to appeal to the center by talking about good ideas in various different plans, lauding specific provisions in various liberal, centrist, and conservative proposed budgets. But he didn't do either of those things. This was a speech, at least as I heard it, to rally liberals to his side as he prepares for the fight to come.
I'm not sure, however, what that really says about his plans for that fight. The budget plan itself isn't particularly what liberals would want (it seems to be, at first look, a version of Simpson-Bowles modified by eliminating a few things that liberals really hated about that plan -- not a liberal alternative to Simpson-Bowles). So do liberals get the rhetoric, while budget idealists get the substance? Or is this the start of a real liberal campaign against Ryan and the House GOP? It's certainly going to be an interesting year for budget wonks.