President Barack Obama''s primetime address guarantees that terrorism and Muslim relations will be central to the 2016 election campaign, possibly eclipsing the economy as the top issue as the primaries begin in two months.
And Obama may have done Republican candidates a favor by breaking little new policy ground in Sunday night's speech and spending at least as much time lecturing Americans on what not to do as on how he planned to keep people safe.
The president's approval rating on combating terror was already at a low point of 40 percent in a Washington Post poll taken before the San Bernardino attack and it's not likely to rise now.
Read More Obama: How we will destroy ISIS
It's not that Americans differ so much from Obama on what to do about ISIS. And most of the GOP candidates save perhaps for Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina would also rely mostly on continued airstrikes and coalition building rather than sending legions of troops to start a new U.S. ground war in the Middle East, one that Obama says ISIS would warmly welcome and use as a recruiting tool.
But people are rallying to candidates like Donald Trump who talk much tougher than Obama on destroying ISIS and combating lone-wolf terror attacks against the homeland. In his Oval Office address, Obama again flatly rejected such tough talk as a solution and instead appealed for an end to divisive rhetoric about Muslim-Americans as well as for fresh gun-control efforts. This thrills the progressive Democratic base but risks being well out of step with broader public opinion.
The biggest problem for Obama on gun control is that his main appeal — to block anyone on a no-fly list from buying weapons — has significant constitutional problems. The no-fly lists are notoriously inaccurate and include people charged with no offense. Such a ban would face both Second and Fifth Amendment due process challenges.
The trouble for Democrats with Obama's approach was clear in party front-runner Hillary Clinton's response in that she didn't give one. Clinton let her own remarks on terrorism earlier in the day stand for themselves and did not issue any immediate endorsement of Obama's speech.
The former secretary of state has her own strong and relatively hawkish foreign policy credentials, and she clearly does not want to be associated with the White House's low ratings on the subject.