Commentary Magazine


Re: What if the Republicans Held a Debate and Nobody Watched?

Jonathan writes President Obama’s long-awaited jobs speech may upstage the GOP debate. But I’m not so sure, and think a case can be made the president made a serious error by scheduling his speech at the same time as the Republican event.

First, this is the MSNBC-Politico debate. So in the process of trying to outshine the GOP candidates, Obama’s actually causing serious problems for two of the most important news outlets for him in the election. Really bad move.

There’s also a good chance the debate time will end up getting pushed back anyway. MSNBC isn’t going to waste its investment in the debate by screening the president’s speech in its place. And would the network really ignore an Obama speech in favor of a GOP event? I just can’t see its viewers accepting that. If MSNBC delays the debate until after Obama’s speech, it might actually end up bringing in more viewers who initially tuned in to hear the president. Though judging from the president’s typical punctuality, this could make it a very late night.

If the debate airs after Obama’s speech, the Republicans could end up overshadowing him, especially if they manage to get in some good attacks on his jobs speech or if Perry gives an exceptional performance. Pundits will likely be watching the debate even more closely to see the reactions from the candidates. So if Obama’s intention is to pull attention away from the GOP, it could easily end up backfiring.