But Obama and his political team were smart to reschedule the event for (at least) three reasons.
1. No one wins a process fight: If Obama had doubled down on the Sept. 7 date, the coverage leading up to the speech would have focused heavily — if not exclusively — on the process (why the White House had done it, etc.) of the speech rather than the policy of it. Process battles, while beloved by reporters, are rarely a good thing for politicians and policy-makers. (See the health care debate and the fight over raising the debt ceiling.) Obama wants and needs to begin to build momentum — from a policy and a political perspective — from this speech, and turning it into a process story would be the exact wrong way to do that.
2. Get the last word: If Obama had stuck to Sept. 7, it would have allowed every Republican presidential candidate a real-time opportunity to respond (and criticize) his proposal. The coverage of the speech would be inter-mingled with coverage of the debate, meaning that Obama’s preferred message would be decidedly muddled. By waiting a day, Obama can more tightly control his message and get the last word (or close to it) of what will be a pivotal week in the presidential race.
3. Pick your audience: Given House Speaker John Boehner’s (Ohio) resistance to putting the speech on Sept. 7 and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s promise to block such a move, Obama would likely have had to give the speech from the Oval Office if he wanted to deliver it next Wednesday. (The logistics of setting up such a major speech somewhere out in the country are daunting and not something the White House would likely have done.) Some of Obama’s least effective addresses have been from the Oval Office, and his team knows it. They wanted him to speak to a joint session of Congress for a reason — to send a powerful visual and rhetorical message that he can’t solve the economic problems of the country alone. To walk away from that preferred backdrop simply to prove a point makes no political sense.