In Flap Over Obama Speech, a Clear Winner

John Boehner

While the political world ponders the ultimate loser in Wednesday’s back-and-forth between the White House and the speaker’s office over when President Obama could deliver his jobs speech, the real winner may be the NBC News/Politico debate itself.

Mr. Obama originally asked Congress for permission to give his jobs address before a joint session next Wednesday night, the same evening a debate for Republican presidential candidates was scheduled at the Reagan Library in California. The House speaker, John A. Boehner, countered by offering the following night, and several hours later, the president relented to the new date. But while the Beltway game of political chicken was going on, the Republican debate — the first one to feature Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who is leading in several nation polls — gained some welcomed publicity.

“We are thrilled at how the confluence of events has raised the profile — and raised the stakes — for the whole week,” said John Harris, the editor in chief of Politico, a sponsor of the debate. “It’s clear for several reasons — including the fact that this is Governor Perry’s first debate, and the way the Obama speech had intensified national attention on the economy — that this will be a very consequential event.”

An official with the other debate sponsor concurred.

“Clearly, you can’t buy this kind of promotion for a debate,” said an insider at NBC News who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But if the Republican debate has landed some extra attention, so has Mr. Obama, and not necessarily the kind he was hoping for.

“Desperate political times called for desperate political measures from President Obama,” said Tim Miller, a spokesman for Jon M. Huntsman Jr.’s campaign. “It was more political theatrics to distract from the fact that the president doesn’t have a plan to fix the economy.”

The Romney campaign also took the opportunity to criticize the president as the whole affair was unfolding and before the White House moved the speech to next Thursday. “Next Wednesday night TV viewers will have a choice between Republican candidates talking about the future of America, or Barack Obama talking about the future of his presidency.” (The choice, the campaign’s statement seemed to imply, was obvious).

Though the president’s address will no longer be competing with the Republican debate, which is will be airing on MSNBC next Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern, the Romney campaign said that the original thought remained the same.

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