U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign-like state of the union address seemed almost geared toward making a case for a third term in office, as he listed off his past accomplishments, priorities for the future, all the while taking repeated and not-so-subtle swipes at his Republican detractors.

"Maybe this was the opening speech of the Obama legacy campaign. It was ... more a speech to really justify his presidency and justify his leadership project," said Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor and author of the new book The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s.

"It definitely was more peppery and partisan, than presidential."

He opened with an immediate acknowledgement that the primary race to succeed him is in full swing. He said he knew some of "you are antsy to get back to Iowa" so he would try and make the speech a little shorter.

It was barely so, clocking in about a minute less than last year's but still coming in at just under an hour, according to the Washington Post.

The White House, and Obama himself, had suggested in recent days that this state of the union address would be more big picture — not a typical laundry list of micro-promises and pledges. 

'Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.'1:27

But Obama still managed to rattle off a few, including cutting college tuition costs, closing down the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, calling for criminal justice reform, curbing gun violence and pledging a new effort to fight and cure cancer.

'Obama's greatest hits'

However, a solid portion of the speech was focused on his list of achievements. He covered the gamut, praising his efforts to grow the economy, cut unemployment and reduce deficits. He talked about the strides made in education, the importance of the Affordable Care Act,  investments made in clean energy, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and his nuclear deal with Iran.

Obama on the threat of ISIS1:30

"The speech was essentially Obama's greatest hits," said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

But it also repeated familiar themes of his administration including efforts to deal with climate change, and the fight for economic and social opportunity. 

He again took on big corporations, big banks and big oil, suggesting they were stifling opportunity and higher wages for working families by making their own rules.

Obama on social security and medicare1:07

"Food Stamp recipients didn't cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did," he said. "It's sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts."

As for climate change, he mocked Republicans who may doubt the science, saying that when the Russians beat the Americans into space, the U.S. didn't deny "Sputnik was up there."

"Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it," he said. "You'll be pretty lonely, because you'll be debating our military, most of America's business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it's a problem and intend to solve it."

It was just one of a number of caustic slams at the Republicans in general and their presidential nominee candidates specifically, rolled out in part, to defend his legacy.

'It's not even close'

To those who would say the economy is in decline, he dismissed those claims as "peddling fiction." And those who believe America was somehow weakened under his administration?  Nonsense, Obama suggested. The U.S. "is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It's not even close."

As for dealing with ISIS, while he didn't mention names, he clearly was responding to Texas Senator Ted Cruz when he said "our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn't pass muster on the world stage."

"It was much more a series of jabs at Republicans which didn't cross the line to being undignified but didn't make the president look like he was above the fray," Troy said.

But his most pointed remarks seemed directed at Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump, and the controversial comments he has made about Mexicans and Muslims. 

Obama argued the need to reject politics that targets people because of race or religion.

"Let me just say this. This is not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong."

Skelley said there were a few times the president sounded disappointed, including, by Obama's own admission, one of the few regrets of his presidency  —  that the rancour and suspicion between the political parties has gotten worse.

Obama said presidents like Abraham Lincoln or Franklin D. Roosevelt may have better bridged the divide, but that he would keep trying.

"He at least had a moment of modesty, which I expect for a president is difficult," Skelley said.