John, I think Obama is suffering from three factors. First, the expectations for him, based on a good deal of media puffery, are that he should dominate these events. When he doesn’t and looks like a beleagured professor or a midlevel executive whose employees are refusing to get on the same page, the disappointment is greater than for a mere mortal politician.
Second, he has the Democrats on his side, and the Republicans have Paul Ryan, Dave Camp, Lamar Alexander, and John Boehner (who is now doing a fine job drilling down on costs, abortion subsidies, and a leaner health-care plan). And it isn’t just me. Republicans are frankly delighted by some of the media reaction. (David Gergen from earlier today on Obama: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” Wolf Blizter: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.”)
Third, the event is too long and there are too many popular, substantive points to be raised by the Republicans for this to be the “game changer” Obama needed. Whoever came up with this idea at the White House is no doubt squirming.