But the sunny routine was a difficult one for Cantor, who has made a career in Washington of being testy and acidic. His delivery was forced and, as he read his text, he seemed to be reminding himself to grin. As a result, he scowled for much of the speech and sounded as though he were spitting out his words. Smiles formed at inopportune times, such as when he described a boy’s failure in public school.

When it came to what his party would do to make people so buoyant and uplifted, Cantor had little beyond the policies he and his colleagues have long offered. The first questioner asked whether anything in Cantor’s lengthy speech would “be incorporated in legislation.” Cantor demurred. “I will say we do intend to follow up with some policy proposals and legislation working with our committees to move forward on many, many of these issues,” he said. …

Problem is, the optimistic talk collides with grim realities. Cantor spoke Tuesday about Lady Liberty lifting her “lamp beside the golden door,” but he was noncommittal on the comprehensive immigration reforms drafted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He spoke about how “many of today’s cures and lifesaving treatments are a result of an initial federal investment” without mentioning that the House Republicans’ budgets would decimate medical research.