[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/24/analysis.obama.reagan/art.obama.03.pool.jpg caption="President Obama takes a page from Ronald Reagan's playbook in his speech to Congress."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama addressed Congress shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, but a casual viewer might have believed it was actually morning in America.
Watch: Obama lays out agenda
"Morning in America" was the theme of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign, and it was front and center in Obama's most critical event since Inauguration Day.
The president who has pledged to reverse much of Reagan's economic revolution took a page from the 40th president's playbook in his 52-minute speech, striking a defiantly optimistic tone that belied the nation's sour mood and rebutted critics who have accused him of intentionally talking down the economy for short-term political gain.
"Though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama declared to a thunderous round of applause from a packed House chamber.
Delivered against a backdrop of dismal economic news and with polls showing overwhelming majorities of Americans believing the country is on the wrong track, Obama's first speech to Congress amounted to a political tour de force. He proposed what many claim is a complete overhaul of the country's economic foundation while ripping his conservative predecessors for transferring "wealth to the wealthy" and gutting regulations "for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market."
And he did it while employing some of Reagan's favorite rhetorical tools. Obama stuck to a fairly short list of priorities while invoking traditional American values of responsibility, hard work and thrift to pound home a back-to-basics message.