CHARLOTTE — President Obama’s supporters are hoping he’ll deliver a boffo address to the Democratic convention tonight — perhaps one equaling Bill Clinton’s widely-praised speech from Wednesday night. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. But even if he does, Romney strategists believe it will have little effect on the undecided voters who will pick the next president.
The reason is that research has shown those voters discount Obama’s rhetorical ability when they listen to him. They’ve heard him a lot, perhaps too much, in the last five years. Should he make a great speech — something he has not actually done as president — they will simply say, “Oh yeah, we know he can talk. We’ve heard it all before. It’s what he’s done that matters.”
If that is true, it suggests there’s really not much the president can say that will change minds on Thursday night — even those minds that are most open to change. Perhaps there are some things Obama could do to improve his standing with independent voters, but talking isn’t one of them. So on Thursday night, there could be a downside for Obama, especially if he comes off badly compared to Clinton. But upside? Other than praise from some of the usual media suspects, not much.