1. Phrasing liberal domestic programs in nationalist terms is great rhetoric, and none the worse for being substantially accurate. It’s true that competing with China has to mean getting better at education. And saying so leaves the Republicans who oppose him looking both pessimistic and unpatriotic.
2. John Boehner’s ostentatious boredom, even when the President says things Boehner mominally agrees with, is excellent political theater: for the Democrats.
Since the election, Obama has apparently gotten his political mojo back. The speech is fully consistent with that.