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Why President Obama was smart to reschedule his jobs speech

at 06:30 AM ET, 09/01/2011


President Barack Obama gestures after a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011, where he urged Congress to pass a federal highway bill. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Less than 12 hours after announcing that President Obama would deliver his much anticipated jobs speech on Sept. 7 — the same day and time of a previously scheduled Republican presidential debate in California — the White House changed course, shifting the speech to Sept. 8.

Reaction was swift — with Republicans crowing that the president had caved and some Democrats grumbling privately about the mishandling of such a basic piece of political planning.

But Obama and his political team were smart to reschedule the event for (at least) three reasons.

1. No one wins a process fight: If Obama had doubled down on the Sept. 7 date, the coverage leading up to the speech would have focused heavily — if not exclusively — on the process (why the White House had done it, etc.) of the speech rather than the policy of it. Process battles, while beloved by reporters, are rarely a good thing for politicians and policy-makers. (See the health care debate and the fight over raising the debt ceiling.) Obama wants and needs to begin to build momentum — from a policy and a political perspective — from this speech, and turning it into a process story would be the exact wrong way to do that.

2. Get the last word: If Obama had stuck to Sept. 7, it would have allowed every Republican presidential candidate a real-time opportunity to respond (and criticize) his proposal. The coverage of the speech would be inter-mingled with coverage of the debate, meaning that Obama’s preferred message would be decidedly muddled. By waiting a day, Obama can more tightly control his message and get the last word (or close to it) of what will be a pivotal week in the presidential race.

3. Pick your audience: Given House Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) resistance to putting the speech on Sept. 7 and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s promise to block such a move, Obama would likely have had to give the speech from the Oval Office if he wanted to deliver it next Wednesday. (The logistics of setting up such a major speech somewhere out in the country are daunting and not something the White House would likely have done.) Some of Obama’s least effective addresses have been from the Oval Office, and his team knows it. They wanted him to speak to a joint session of Congress for a reason — to send a powerful visual and rhetorical message that he can’t solve the economic problems of the country alone. To walk away from that preferred backdrop simply to prove a point makes no political sense.

Perry leads in another poll: Yet another poll shows Rick Perry leading Mitt Romney nationally, with Quinnipiac putting Perry’s lead at six.

Whether Sarah Palin jumps into the race or not, Perry is still up six. With Palin in, Perry takes 24 percent, Romney 18 and Palin 11. Without Palin, it’s Perry 26, Romney 20.

Rep. Michele Bachmann is next in both polls, taking 10 percent with Palin in the race and 12 percent without her.

In the general election, Romney fares slightly better than Perry, running a tie with Obama. Perry trails by three points, Bachmann trails by nine, and Palin trails by 14.

Over the last week, both Gallup and CNN have showed Perry leading Romney by double digits.

Fixbits:

Don’t hold your breath for a Dick Cheney endorsement. (We know you were.)

Obama will raise money in Hollywood next month.

Perry will be at the Value Voters Summit.

Perry goes to a Virginia GOP fundraiser with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Sept. 14.

The Montana Senate race focuses on wolves.

Herman Cain addresses the Georgia legislature.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) isn’t ruling out being someone’s vice president.

Obama may regret highlighting this company, which could leave taxpayers on the hook for more than $500 million.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is highlighting town hall run-ins between angry voters and Republican incumbents.

Things get heated at a debate in the New York-9 special election.

The pro-Bachmann super PAC says it’s running this ad against Perry in South Carolina.

The Georgia legislature has passed a GOP-crafted redistricting bill.

Must-reads:

We read Rick Perry’s ‘Fed Up!’ so you don’t have to” — The Texas Tribune

Memo to Mitt Romney: You Have to Attack Rick Perry, and Here’s How to Do It” — Bill Galston, New Republic

No winners in this debt limit fight” — Dan Balz, Washington Post

For some members, end of House Page Program is bittersweet” — Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post

Feeling squeeze, Bachmann tries to extend her appeal” — Kevin Diaz, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Palin the procrastinator” — Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

Jon Huntsman unveils jobs plan in New Hampshire” — Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

More on PostPolitics

Obama jobs speech creates conflict with GOP

Obama team ‘frustrated’ over fight with Republicans

Obama the GOP and the fight for prime time

Perry’s donors fare well, Texas-style

 
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