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Biden confronts Trump and age questions in speech-turned-rally State of the Union address: ANALYSIS

President Joe Biden didn't say the words "Donald Trump" Thursday night.

He didn't have to, of course. The former president was very much on the current president's mind -- just as he hopes he will be on voters' minds over the long eight months of the general election campaign that has now begun.

Biden's final State of the Union address before the election blended an upbeat assessment of the nation under his leadership with a searing portrait of what might come to pass if Trump comes to power again. He skipped many of the typical niceties of a formal address by jumping right into an urgent plea to turn against Trump.

"My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth about Jan. 6. I will not do that," Biden said. "Here's the simple truth: You can't love your country only when you win."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden looks on with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Mike Johnson, before delivering the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, on March 7, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Shawn Thew, Pool via AP)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden looks on with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Mike Johnson, before delivering the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, on March 7, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Shawn Thew, Pool via AP)

MORE: 'I believe in America': Fired-up Biden uses State of the Union to skewer GOP, his 'predecessor'

He also sought to address -- both directly and indirectly -- concerns about his age about ability to do the job at 81. The prepared text of his speech, as distributed by the White House, included 80 exclamation points; Biden almost certainly ad-libbed a few in punctuating his speech, which he interrupted multiple times to engage in back-and-forth with displeased Republicans.

It took Biden until deep into his speech before talking about the most immediate political vulnerability inside his own Democratic Party. He called on Israel to support humanitarian efforts and minimize civilian casualties in Gaza and endorsed the cease-fire many of his fellow Democrats have demanded for months.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Mar. 7, 2024, in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Mar. 7, 2024, in Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

MORE: Read President Biden's State of the Union address as prepared for delivery

He also took his time before talking directly about what might be his biggest overall vulnerability: perceptions of his age.

"My fellow Americans, the issue facing our nation isn't how old we are -- it's how old our ideas are," the president said toward the end of his speech. "Hate, anger, revenge, retribution are the oldest of ideas. But you can't lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back."

He also not-so-subtly reminded the audience that Trump isn't that much younger than he is.

"My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy" the president said. "Other people my age see it differently -- an American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution. That's not me."

Mostly missing from the president's speech were calls for national unity that have long been tropes of State of the Union addresses -- and of Biden speeches of recent vintage. He reached back to former President Franklin Roosevelt's use of formal speeches to Congress to bring a sense of urgency to generation-defining challenges.

"This is no ordinary moment," Biden said. "Freedom and democracy are under attack both at home and overseas at the same time."

It was no ordinary speech. Biden seemed to look for moments to engage with Republicans who booed or otherwise objected to what he was saying, saying he was glad to hear they wouldn't push for further tax cuts for the rich and almost taunting them for turning against an immigration bill that conservative Republicans helped negotiate.

"Oh, you don't like that bill, huh?" he said. "I'll be darned. That's amazing."

As some chatter continued from Republicans in the House chamber, he went on: "Look at the facts. I know you know how to read."

PHOTO: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene calls out as President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Mar. 7, 2024, in Washington (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene calls out as President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Mar. 7, 2024, in Washington (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)

In a striking moment, Biden spoke the name Laken Riley, the medical student allegedly killed by an immigrant who entered the country illegally, as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and other MAGA-friendly Republicans demanded.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden holds up a Laken Riley button as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Mar. 7, 2024, in Washington.  (Andrew Harnik/AP)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden holds up a Laken Riley button as he delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Mar. 7, 2024, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The outlines of his campaign against Trump emerged throughout the speech. He sought to send a message that he was ready to brag about his stances on the economy, abortion rights, foreign policy and more -- putting them on notice that he was ready to fight.

The address -- likely the biggest television audience Biden will have before Election Day in November -- landed just after the Republican nominating contest effectively ended, with Trump's Super Tuesday romp and the withdrawal of his last remaining challenger, Nikki Haley.

That sets up an extraordinarily long and most likely astoundingly negative general-election campaign. Both candidates are viewed negatively across virtually all recent polling, with a recent New York Times/Siena College poll placing Trump's favorability nationwide at 44%, with Biden even lower, at 38%.

The latest 538 polling averages have Biden trailing Trump by two points, and behind in all the major battleground states with the exception of Pennsylvania, which the polling average has pegged as tied.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber in Washington, Mar. 7, 2024. (Shawn Thew/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber in Washington, Mar. 7, 2024. (Shawn Thew/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

For all his promises of bringing calmer times to the nation, Biden's presidency has been marked by significant tumult. Inflation that came with the COVID recovery, a migrant crisis at the border, wars raging in Ukraine and Israel, worries about crime, unprecedented criminal charges against a former president – all of that has made for a disorienting three-plus years of the Biden presidency.

The official Republican response sought to portray Biden as out of touch with the reality felt by most people watching at home.

"The American people are scraping by while the president proudly proclaims 'Bidenomics' is working. Bless his heart. We know better," said Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., who at 42 holds the distinction of being the youngest Republican woman ever elected to the Senate. "We are the party of hardworking parents and families."

Then there's the man himself: stiffer and more halting than he once was, and defiant amid the voices asking that he step aside.

Biden worked the room in the House chamber walking to and from the dais, avoiding confrontations with MAGA members of Congress while posing for selfies with friendly Democrats. A chant of "four more years" broke out before he said a word into the microphone, and a few more echoed before he was done.

"If I were smart, I'd go home now," the president joked when he finally began his speech.

No matter what many of his critics say he should be doing, Biden is not going home, of course. His challenge from here is to convince his supporters and others not sold on him not stay home in the fall.

Biden confronts Trump and age questions in speech-turned-rally State of the Union address: ANALYSIS originally appeared on abcnews.go.com