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Obama team tries to shift focus after toned down speech, weak jobs report

Vice President Joe Biden addresses Democratic National ConventiCharlotte N.C. Thursday Sept. 6 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:35AM

WASHINGTON —Mitt Romney hits Lake Forest on Monday to pick up $3 million at a fund-raiser — a detour from stumping in battleground states where he and President Barack Obama are, and will be, spending most of their time.

I’m back in Washington from a two week convention swing — Republicans in Tampa and Democrats in Charlotte, in battlegrounds Florida and North Carolina — and a top takeway is this: Former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) all did a better job in Charlotte of explaining the achievements of the Obama White House and making the case for re-election than did the president himself.

News and observations:

◆ I’m told that Romney’s Lake Forest reception and dinner (rescheduled from the original Tuesday date) will yield $3 million, showing there still is money to be squeezed from high-end Illinois Republicans. The event is  being hosted by Reeve and Melissa Waud. Donations range from $2,500 for a reception to $25,800 for a private dinner. Maximum donations are $75,800 per person or $151,600 per couple.

◆ Obama’s Thursday night speech accepting his second presidential nomination earned him poor reviews from a number of pundits; my take is that Obama delivered a glorified stump speech that is memorable for being unmemorable.  

There’s some chatter going around that Obama toned down the speech because he knew that monthly unemployment numbers would be released Friday and they would show a weak economic recovery. So Thursday was not the night for Obama to outdo himself in an aspirational stem-winder — such as his 2004 convention speech in Boston that put him on the road to the White House or his 2008 address in Denver, where he accepted his first Democratic presidential nomination.

Anyway, the time for soaring rhetoric to earn Obama support seems to have passed. Obama has a real-world record under his belt.

Because the speech was panned — suffering from comparison to Clinton’s pitch-perfect blend of politics, policy and potshots at Romney — the Obama team did something remarkable and on Friday shared results from a focus group that tested voter reactions to various convention speeches.

So why do that?

To try to shift the storyline and show that Obama’s speech may not have earned his usual four stars for soaring oratory — but it got the job done in persuading undecided voters. Maybe better than he did in 2008.

The focus group findings were discussed with reporters by a senior administration official on Air Force One traveling with the president and vice president to battleground New Hampshire. The Obamas and the Bidens left Charlotte and stumped together as a foursome for the first time this year.

According to the pool report, the Obama team research showed people who watched the speech “found it to be optimistic, they found it to be credible in terms of his ideas and goals that would help the economy.” 

“ We think that swing voters in this election responded well to the president’s speech. Our sense is that they responded better than to his speech in 2008 in terms of its impact. In terms of their overall view of the speech,” the senior official said.

Clinton delivered a line about Obama that was cited for its impact: “I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.”

As for the state of the race after Tampa and Charlotte, the senior official said, “You are not going to see tremendous movement out of these conventions, even out of the debates.” Obama and Romney debate three times in October.

“Any movement you are going to see is small. But in a race, small movement is important,” the official said.

◆ Mitt’s team keeps pounding on the Obama “disappointment theme” — a narrative that was threaded throughout the Republican convention.

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer, in a memo released Friday, talked about their hunt for Obama “switchers” and how they are trying to get people to “break up” with Obama — using language usually used to describe personal, not political, relationships.

“Independent voters are rethinking their support for the president. They’re ready to say, “You’ve changed.” Let’s just be friends,” Spicer wrote.

“It’s understandable that voters worried about the future in 2008 supported Barack Obama. He promised hope and change, deficit reduction, and a thriving economy. But today, hope is in short supply, and change has been for the worse.”

“It’s time for a breakup. . . . President Obama had his chance. For those that once supported him, it’s time to see other people.”

Except if the other people are Obama’s top surrogates: Clinton, Biden, Kerry or Mrs. Obama.

They might be able to patch it all up.

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