Republicans won big last November, increasing their House majority to decades-high margins and taking control of the Senate. So it was an odd spectacle to watch a confident President Obama give his surprisingly triumphal State of the Union address on Tuesday night — and see Republicans respond that it isn't morning in America yet.

Freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who won one of last fall's tossup races, had the unenviable task of formalizing those sentiments in her official GOP response to Obama's speech. "These days," she said, "many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it." She continued:

We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills. We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they'll be able to leave to their children. [Ernst]

Ernst's gloomy tone was everywhere in the Republican post-game analysis. The U.S. is "adrift," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his own response, blaming Obama for America's income inequality. "While the sluggish recovery has been good for some," added former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), "far too many people have been left behind." Obama wants to turn the page, but "there are a lot of Americans who don't feel like it's time to turn the page," GOP pollster Kristen Anderson told NPR News, adding that Obama's speech was perhaps "too rosy."*

This is the party that just won?

Weirder still is the GOP's solution for what ails America: The federal government. "The sting of the economy and the frustration with Washington's dysfunction" have been felt across America over the past six years, Ernst said in her rebuttal, but "the new Republican majority you elected started by reforming Congress to make it function again." She repeated the phrase "the new Republican Congress you just elected" a few times, as if she was selling something.

On the other side of the bizarro night in politics, you had Obama cheering cheap gas prices and America's record oil production — hardly the hallmarks of an environmentalist. And despite the drubbing his party took two months ago, Obama practically radiated sunshine. Yes, "it has been, and still is, a hard time for many," he said, but "tonight, we turn the page.... The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong."

Obama cracked jokes, he spoke of America as a family that's just passed through hard times together, and he touted America's "growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production." He proposed tax cuts (for most Americans, at least).

The reasons behind this dynamic seem pretty clear: The U.S. really has finally rebounded from the Great Recession in lots of measurable and immeasurable ways, and Democrats have controlled the White House and at least one chamber of Congress for that entire period. Obama wants to set a high-water mark, so if things go south, he can point to the one thing that's changed in Washington: Republicans control Congress.

For Republicans, the reverse is true, for the same reason. If things are still pretty bad now, the new GOP majority has room to claim credit if things continue to get rosier.

But Republicans have to be careful. America really does feel better about Obama and the economy than last year. In fact, according to Gallup, Americans are more bullish on the economy now than at any point in Obama's presidency — Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index is in positive territory (+2) for the first time since 2008, versus -54 when he took office in January 2009. And according to Pew, a 49 percent plurality of Americans disapproves of "Republican congressional leaders' policies and plans for the future."

Then there are the results of CNN's instant-reaction poll of State of the Union viewers:

It may or may not be morning in America — the country still has a lot of problems — but nobody likes being told that they're sitting in the dark.

*Obama probably was too rosy, at least on the economy.