OBAMA FIRES UP LABORFEST CROWD…. Reading Bob Herbert’s columns lately, it’s been hard not to notice that he wants to see more fire in the belly from President Obama. It was a good sign, then, that the New York Times columnist watched the president’s remarks at Milwaukee’s Laborfest yesterday, and came away impressed.

Calling the speech “rousing, inspirational and, at times, quite funny,” Herbert explained that Obama “linked the nation’s desperate need for jobs to the sorry state of the national infrastructure in a tone that conveyed both passion and empathy, and left me wondering, ‘Where has this guy been for the past year and a half?’”

In fairness to the president, we do see flashes of this kind of passion from time to time, but I’d agree that yesterday offered the most fired-up-ready-to-go Obama I’ve seen in a while.

Most of the speech had to do with the economy, the middle class, and the road ahead. He also offered a spirited defense of the historic accomplishments of the last 20 months.

But then the president turned his attention to the opposition, and straying at times from his prepared remarks, Obama actually seemed to enjoy going on the offensive against those “folks in Washington who see things differently.”

“These guys, they just don’t want to give up on that economic philosophy that they have been peddling for most of the last decade. You know that philosophy — you cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; you cut all the rules and regulations for special interests; and then you just cut working folks loose — you cut them loose to fend for themselves.

“You remember they called it the ownership society, but what it really boiled down to was, if you couldn’t find a job, you couldn’t afford college, you were born poor, your insurance company dropped you even though your kid was sick, that you were on your own.

“Well, you know what, that philosophy didn’t work out so well for middle-class families all across America. It didn’t work out so well for our country. All it did was rack up record deficits and result in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I mean, think about it, we have tried what they’re peddling. We did it for 10 years. We ended up with the worst economy since the 1930s and record deficits to boot. It’s not like we haven’t tried what they’re trying to sell us.

“Now, I’m bringing this up not because I’m trying to re-litigate the past; I’m bringing it up because I don’t want to re-live the past.

“It’d be one thing, Milwaukee, if Republicans in Washington had some new ideas, if they had said, ‘You know what, we really screwed up, and we’ve learned from our mistakes; we’re going to do things differently this time.’ That’s not what they’re doing.

When the leader of their campaign committee was asked on national television what Republicans would do if they took over Congress, you know what he said? He said, ‘We’ll do exactly the same thing we did the last time.’ That’s what he said. It’s on tape.

So basically, here’s what this election comes down to. They’re betting that between now and November, you’re going to come down with amnesia. They figure you’re going to forget what their agenda did to this country.”

By most measures, that amnesia not only exists, it’s actually spreading. But if Democrats are going to salvage the cycle, they could do a whole lot worse than the president’s message yesterday.

It’s hard to say whether voters are even willing to listen anymore, but the more Obama reaches the public with speeches like this one, the better the Dems’ odds in November.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.