Why Obama's Speech Today Was a Fail

Neither Mitt Romney nor President Obama said anything particularly new today. Both delivered standard stump speeches -- Romney without a teleprompter, the president with, as both candidates customarily do. Even MSNBC had to admit that the president's speech wasn't much to write online about. He spent 54 minutes saying things he has said a zillion times before.

But the president built up expectations for today's speech by telegraphing it days in advance. Beginning Tuesday, the Obama campaign signaled that the president would go to Ohio and knock Romney off the cable cameras, upstage Romney's scheduled speech, and reboot his campaign. Almost immediately after that, though, campaign staff leaked that Obama's speech would have no new ideas. So how could it upstage Romney? By geography, apparently.

The president appeared to be trying to do to Romney what Romney did to him a couple of weeks ago, when Obama adviser David Axelrod held an event in Boston. Romney upstaged that event by holding an event at Solyndra, using the empty building as a backdrop to visually draw attention to Obama's failed energy policies and wasteful spending. Romney's Solyndra gambit won him the week and has kept the Obama campaign off-balance ever since. They never know where Mitt Romney will turn up or what he'll use against Obama. Today, that old quote from Bill Clinton turned up, telling voters to vote Democrats out if they haven't got the job done. Obama and company surely suspect that Mitt had his mittens on that quote, just waiting to deploy it at a time of their choosing. What else do they have?

Today's speech duel had no Romney-at-Solyndra effect for Obama. There was no drama, nothing exciting or even interesting. As Roger has written here a few times, Obama was once again a bore. All Obama accomplished today was to draw attention to Romney's speech, and to Romney's first paid negative ad of the general campaign:

As others have pointed out, Romney's ad is a mirror image of this Obama 2008 ad. It's in your face in a way that Obama will have a very hard time matching or answering. Obama now knows that he never knows where his own words and tactics will turn up, used against him.

Today's moves showed that the Romney campaign is living rent-free in David Axelrod's head. Axelrod tried to use the president's speech to get some revenge for his Boston flop by trying to upstage Romney. But all he did was put Romney up on the same plane with the sitting president in the nation's mind today. Today's speech was empty and boring. Fail for Axelrod.