With his approval running well under 50 percent, Obama was not quite so confrontational as he has been in the past.
He conceded that in the last four years, wages "have barely budged," that inequality "has deepened" and upward mobility "has stalled." No more blaming everything on George W. Bush.
He noted obliquely that "last year the Voting Rights Act was weakened" without explicitly attacking the Supreme Court for its ruling that states could not be singled out for heightened scrutiny based on low voter turnout in the years from 1964 to 1972.
He said he would work with states expanding pre-kindergarten schooling and limited his Republican bashing to the phrase "as Congress decides what it's going to do." He noted approvingly Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's proposal to reshape the Earned Income Tax Credit.
To be sure, many of his proposals were pretty small-ball. He recycled calls for corporate tax reform, port upgrades and high-tech manufacturing hubs. He called for patent reform and savings bond investment accounts.
Contrary to press predictions, he did not harp on "income inequality" -- the phrase must poll poorly. The remedies he proposed -- raising the minimum wage and continuing 100-week unemployment benefits -- do pathetically little to address it.
Immigration and gun control got brief, vague paragraphs. His defensive paragraphs about Obamacare evoked as much laughter as applause.
His proclamation of economic progress was necessarily tepid. His hailing of America's approaching energy independence necessarily omitted the fact that his administration has done more to discourage than encourage the fracking revolution in oil and natural gas.
He was careful to say that solar panel installation can't be outsourced but of course failed to mention that solar panel manufacturing can be and is -- and that his crony capitalism "investment" in Solyndra and other solar firms was a bust.
On issues dear to the heart of Democratic core constituencies, he resorted to outright falsehoods.
Women earn only 77 cents for each dollar men earn, he said. That's a number that goes back to the 1970s. His own Labor Department's survey says that when you take account of hours worked and type of work, the number is more like 95 cents.
"Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child's life is high-quality early education," he said. Actually, his own Health and Human Services study has found no lasting value in Head Start programs.