1. Very boring. I had trouble focusing. And I like this stuff more than most.

2. When he is talking about domestic policy (especially in the first half of his speech), he sounds like a guy asking for a first term, even when he is looking back on the first term he is still having.

3. He doesn’t have a good explanation for, or theory of, the lousy economy. It is just vaguely hard and it will take some unspecified time to get better on the condition that he stays as president. He also expects us to assume that any bad thing that has happened or might happen in the future is, and will always be, the fault of George W. Bush. Any good thing that happens (if it happens) will be because of Obama. This stuff won’t convince anyone who doesn’t want to be convinced.

4. That doesn’t mean the speech doesn’t have some effective themes. The attacks on Romney’s alleged policies are a basis for a potentially effective negative campaign. People know that things are good, but that it could be worse. Romney has not made a case that his policies will lead to broadly higher living standards. I doubt the average voter knows what Mitt Romney’s proposed policies are. That leaves Obama to make the case that Romney’s policies will make things worse. If all people hear on the level of policy is that Romney’s policies will hurt the vulnerable, and not help the middle-class in return, for some tax cuts for the rich, then the median voters could easily conclude that what they have now is less bad than what the Republicans are offering.

5. This gets to the key for Romney. The lousy economy means that the median voters are willing to listen to him. But Romney isn’t saying anything that speaks to their concerns. The lousy economy is a foundation on which Romney can build an argument for how his policies will help living standards rise. If Romney doesn’t make an argument, the foundation is just a hole in the ground.

Articles by Pete Spiliakos

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