There have been two pivotal political upheavals over the past few weeks, one that first spelled doom for the Democratic majority, followed by another that could reinvigorate a party bogged down by health care reform. First, Massachusetts elected its first Republican Senator since 1979 in Scott Brown. And second, President Barack Obama delivered a thoughtful, if somewhat colloquial, State of the Union Address before striking a more combative tone with House Republicans during their retreat in Baltimore this past weekend. As is true with almost all presidential decision-making, there is far more at work than meets the eye.

President Obama's biggest mistake in his first year was delegating responsibility for health care reform to Congress. With more votes in the Senate than Democrats have had in decades, President Obama took an incredible gamble by allowing key Congressional leaders to draft their own bill with few, if any, guidelines coming from the White House.

When the process looked doomed, largely because of Senator Max Baucus's flirtations with some moderate Republicans who ultimately balked at his plan, the president and his staff began to step up the pressure behind the scenes. But here we are, a month into 2010, and there's no sign that the bills passed in the Senate and the House will be ameliorated. Instead, Congressional Democrats are hoping to push financial reform and a jobs bill through the Senate, having already passed versions of both in the House.

Over the past year, the president's supporters have been slamming their heads against the wall trying to figure out why exactly President Obama delegated so much authority on his number one agenda item. During the 1990s, "Hillarycare" floundered in the face of complaints that it was a closed-door process run by Administration staff with very little Congressional input. Today, health care reform is on life support because the president allocated total control over the bill to Congress. Yet, it's easy to find faults in such a massive and far-reaching piece of legislation. And it's far easier to fault the bill than to offer any real, comprehensive alternative, as Republicans have deftly shown. The devil is always in the detail when it comes to health care reform, and this bill is no different. But any reform that seeks to overhaul a key industry in America will face incredible inertia; no bill this large can please everyone.

All this set the stage for the dramatic victory of Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts over the establishment candidate Attorney General Martha Coakley.

As Congressional Democrats obsessed over the legislative process, fighting back Republican attempts to derail health care, the nation was unimpressed. The national mood began to take an impatient, anti-incumbent edge, and the loss of the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat was the result. Clearly, a change was needed.

As the president and his allies seek to refocus their agenda for 2010 in terms of policy, they are also implementing critical changes in their style and tone. First of all, President Obama is simplifying his message; instead of pursuing a "big bang" style of pushing on multiple fronts simultaneously, the president is now advocating his jobs bill and financial reform.

He is also extending a hand to Republicans in the hopes of finding some bipartisanship in a time of rhetorical divisiveness. However, the president has been clear that he will not let GOP obstructionism go unnoticed, especially not during a time of economic crisis.

More importantly, the president is refusing to delegate his agenda to the slow and unpopular 111th Congress. Appearing beside former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, President Obama announced financial reforms that seek to end proprietary trading for banks involved in the TARP program and to prevent future banks from becoming systematically "too big to fail."

What is notable is that the president has finally drawn a line in the sand with his agenda, after publicly waffling on the issue of the public option during the drawn-out health care battles of 2009. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, who has been trying to push a more modest proposal, will now have to comply with the more ambitious plan being pushed by the White House.

And finally, President Obama is personalizing his agenda. By standing firm on his jobs bill and financial reform, the president both provided a clear path and an important ally to wavering Democrats in Congress. President Obama is beginning to look more like the decisive campaigner he was back in 2008 rather than the aloof president with too much on his plate. To those of us who voted for the Barack Obama of 2008, this is some much-needed relief.

Chris Rowe is a member of the Class of 2010.