Obama's Risky Scheduling Conflict

The pros and cons of sharing the small screen with the GOP candidates

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Update: 9:34 p.m.: Looks like the scheduling conflict was a little too risky. The president has re-scheduled the speech to Thursday, Politico reports. "President Obama, bowing to the complaints of House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans, has moved his jobs speech before a joint session of Congress back one day, to Thursday, Sept. 8."

President Obama's decision to schedule a major jobs speech in front of a joint session of Congress at 8 p.m. next Wednesday, the precise time of the Republican presidential debate, is a risky bet that could pay off beautifully or backfire in the president's face. One thing's for sure: the decision sent management at Politico and NBC, the two media companies hosting the debate, scrambling to determine their programming schedule. In a statement sent out over an hour ago, Politico and NBC maintained that the debate would "not be postponed." However, Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone tweets that the "GOP presidential debate will be after Obama is done," citing Politico editor-in-chief John Harris as his source. That sure sounds like a postponement to us. All the while, House Speaker John Boehner is now asking the president to re-schedule, citing security concerns. Regardless, here's how the president's decision could help or hurt him.

The president wins  Reading the tea leaves, Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly says the scheduling suggests the president is planning to unveil an ambitious jobs plan. "This is in the swing-for-the-fences category. Presidential speeches to joint sessions of Congress are not for routine issues. And if Obama intended to aim low with his plan, throwing out a few tax credits and warmed-over ideas, he would not pick this venue." At the same time, the contrast between President Obama's plan and the Republicans' could play out in the president's favor, Dennis G at Balloon Juice opines. "I think stepping on the Politico/NBC News Republican Candidate’s debate is a nice touch and an opportunity for these would-be-Presidents to demonstrate how they respond to events out of their control. So far, the response is a pretty predictable symphony of whimpers, belly aches and name calling."

It hurts the president  Tommy Christopher at Mediaite shines a light on the risks. "It definitely ratchets up the expectations. If the President’s plan is seen as a dud, it will be seen as such under a much brighter glare." In a series of tweets, The Washington Examiner's Byron York sneers at the plan, saying it gives Republicans the "chance to critique Obama proposals almost in real time."

What about Politico and NBC?  In a joint statement, the two media companies tried to spin the scheduling conflict. "We're thrilled that we now have a terrific opportunity to hear from national leaders of both major parties about the most pressing domestic issues facing the country." Betsy Rothstein at Fishbowl DC isn't buying it. "Politico has to be burning up that they have to place a bright red banner announcing POTUS’s speech just under their own debate advertisement." Byron York adds, "Non-NBC networks suddenly have lots of news on a night previously expected to be dominated by NBC." However, Erik Wemple at The Washington Post looks on the bright side. "That’s not spin; it’s the truth. Harris could have added that the 'turn of events' means that whatever funds Politico/NBC had set aside for debate promotion can move to other priorities. Because this thing will now promote itself."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.