Michael Barone

Cantor titled his remarks "Making Life Work," and they were clearly aimed at Main Street.

He spoke not of educational block grants, but of having federal education "follow children" to schools their parents choose.

In a move reminiscent of presidents' State of the Union messages since 1982, he brought along Joseph Kelley, who sent his son, Rashawn, and his three daughters to private schools with money from a District of Columbia voucher program the Obama administration has tried to shut down.

He criticized the Obamacare tax on medical devices by bringing a Baltimore nurse who worked to develop replacement discs for patients with back pain and then needed one herself. She was wearing her cervical collar.

He brought 12-year-old Katie, from Richmond, who has been treated for cancer almost all her life, to illustrate Republican support for funding basic medical research.

Addressing immigration, he brought Fiona Zhou, a systems engineering graduate student whose chances to remain in the United States would improve if, as the House voted last year, more immigration slots were opened for foreigners with advance science, technology and engineering degrees.

He endorsed the Dream Act, legal residence and citizenship for illegal immigrants brought here as children. He praised the bipartisan work on a bill including border security, employment verification and guest-worker programs.

All this was a contrast with Cantor's usual penchant to speak in Washington talk and with the tendency of many Republicans, notably Mitt Romney, to speak in abstractions like free enterprise and government regulation, rather than in words that describe the experiences of ordinary Americans.

Yes, there's a certain amount of theater and contrivance to this. But that's often true in politics. There was sophisticated argumentation in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. But the two candidates also put on a show.

It's not clear how successful the House Republicans' outside game will be. But for those on their side, it's encouraging that they're trying to play.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM