Pundits Find Middle Ground on Centrist State of the Union Address

From TV to Twitter, most of the media buzz about President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night focused on his decidedly even-keeled, centrist approach.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described the speech as “more of a CEO style pep-talk than a football-style pep talk,” while fellow anchor Lawrence O’Donnell added that it was “a well-delivered, vague speech by the President, met by a well-delivered even more vague speech by the Republican response,” referring to Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) GOP response.

“You saw the President move to the center [tonight],” said CBS News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer, citing Obama’s November loss of key Independent voters. “I think his ratings are going to take another bump up, in the short term. The state is now set–the hard part’s next.”

MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and NBC were the only networks to provide continued analysis after the conclusion of Ryan’s remarks. CBS continued their coverage online via live Webcast with anchor Katie Couric, Schieffer and CBS News’ Senior Political Correspondent Jeff Greenfield, who discussed questions Tweeted by viewers.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, appearing on Fox News, called the speech “flat.” Coverage led by Fox’s Bret Baier was followed by a focus group with Fox’s Frank Luntz in Atlanta, who panned the speech as more of Obama’s same campaign rhetoric.

While he didn’t pan the speech, CNN panelist and primetime host Piers Morgan echoed that sentiment, describing the State of the Union address as “not massive on substance, but big on rhetoric,”

CNN was the only network to give Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) response on behalf of the Tea Party equal air time with the GOP response, while Fox News ran the recorded speech on On the Record with Greta van Susteren. The other nets showed clips of the speech and ABC News live-streamed it online. Feedback on Bachmann kept with the night’s muted trend (though this may also be because her speech was delayed).

“I was hoping for crazy, but I couldn’t get [any],” said CNN political contributor Paul Begala.

Speaking on NBC News’s special presentation of the address, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough remarked that Bachmann’s Tea Party speech ultimately distracts from the GOP’s stance, adding that those he spoke with in the President’s circle were thus “delighted” by her speaking, while Republican Hill representatives called the speech “bad for the party” and “a distraction.”

ABC’s This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour said that “the sputnik moment was remarkable,” referring to Obama’s carpe diem call in the speech, while ABC political contributor Donna Brazile said that the speech “will be remembered for its spirit of optimism.”

While the gang at MSNBC stuck to on-air political analysis, recently-booted Countdown host Keith Olbermann took the Twitterverse (including his newly-created @FOKNewsChannel)–along with several other media figures–to weigh in on the evening’s events:

@FOKNewsChannel Later after the Society of Irresponsible People meets and we decide how best to use this for deviltry and mayhem, look out #FOK

@KeithOlbermann Gently, firmly but without shouting “You Lie” at Boehner, POTUS just pwned GOP on ‘health care reform repeal ritual” #sotu

@KeithOlbermann “It’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl that needs to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” He just lost GB+Pitts. #SOTU

@KeithOlbermann So with lower corp tax rates, Health Care tort reform, and spending freezes, what is the GOP response? “Didn’t like his tie”? #sotu

@KeithOlbermann Enthusiastic, well-delivered speech w/more inspiration than policy + much of policy clanged to the floor like a knocked-over soda can #sotu

@KeithOlbermann If Rep. Ryan is really opposed to raising the debt limit, he has the economic knowledge of a smoked #salmon. #sotu response

@DanaBashCNN So far repub sen jon kyl wins award for repub least likely to clap.

@edhenrycnn Obama smoked salmon joke gets laughs all around but in that way that you laugh at your uncle’s joke at Thanksgiving

@zbyronwolf Does anyone else see the irony in the President who canceled the moon program calling for a national #sputnik moment?

@chucktodd The Obama-Ryan messages are as good of a 2012 preview as you might get this early in the prez cycle.

@BillHemmer POTUS good speech. Plenty to debate America. Interesting move to put line “State of our union is strong” @ end of address.