No one, of course, is going to change their vote based on mid-day speeches months before the election, and, in this case, months before most voters are even beginning to pay attention. However, speeches such as the one Barack Obama gave this afternoon are still worth paying attention to because they’re really just previews for speeches that the president will be giving for the rest of the campaign. And so if you think those speeches — and the ad campaigns designed to go with them — can matter, then it’s worth paying attention to today’s speech.
So I’ll start by pointing out one rhetorical choice Obama made: He’s running against Congress and defining Mitt Romney as a creature of Congress.
Not, usually, Republicans in Congress (he preferred to talk about Romney and his “allies” in Congress). Certainly not Paul Ryan, as some Democrats would like to hear — not by name, anyway. And not, despite long sections of the speech complaining about the previous decade, George W. Bush. It’s Congress. Or MittRomneyandCongress.
Why? My guess is that this one is a purely poll-driven, or focus group driven, choice. And I’m not surprised. People hate Congress: always have, always will.
And it’s a logical hatred for Obama to tap into in his continuing posturing as a non-ideological, consensus-building, stalemate-ending, squabbling-avoiding barely-a-politician. It’s less overtly partisan than bashing Republicans (obviously, I guess), and hardly anyone knows who Paul Ryan is, anyway. As for George W. Bush: I wouldn’t be surprised at all if complaining about him by name sounds carping and whiny even to those who agree with the basic point. Besides, using “Congress” allows Obama to rhetorically link what took place during the Bush years with what Romney — I mean RomneyandCongress — would do if they had a chance.
Now, I hate this stuff, but then again I’m one of the very few Americans who likes Congress as an institution, likes lots of individual members of Congress quite a bit and even likes them as a group. Then again, I don’t think that political scientists who study U.S. government institutions are exactly a major target group for presidential campaigns. And everyone else hates Congress.
So get used to MittRomneyandCongress. I suspect we'll be hearing a whole lot more about that particular monster quite a bit this year.