If they had it to do over again

The flap over the scheduling of President Obama’s jobs speech has largely faded from view, but my friend Elon Green emailed yesterday with an interesting question: did Republicans screw this up?

“I wonder, does the GOP regret forcing the WH to move the date of Obama’s speech? Just imagine if he’d given it the night of the GOP debate. The next day, he’d be splitting the news cycle with Perry and Romney. Now, of course, he’s monopolizing it to the point where even a possible attack on NY isn’t crowding him out.”

The more I think about this, the more I think Elon has raised a good point.

When the White House requested Wednesday night for the jobs speech, the House Republican leadership came up with a bizarre rationale for a delay: there would have to be a lengthy security sweep of the House chamber, and some votes were scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. As it turns out, those votes were two symbolic measures: allowing the Capitol Grounds to be used for a Special Olympics torch run and congratulating a Little League World Series team from North Carolina. These votes, obviously, could have been scheduled anytime.

Of course, we know why GOP leaders wanted the president to move his speech: it was going to conflict with the debate for the Republican presidential candidates. The White House didn’t care, so it accepted Thursday.

But consider Elon’s point: if Obama and the GOP candidates had shared the night, they would have shared the coverage and next-day chatter. Instead, yesterday’s coverage was all about Obama, the American Jobs Act, and the president taking his case on the road with a speech in Richmond. Wouldn’t Republicans have been better off sharing the spotlight?

One could make the argument that Perry, Romney, et al, would have looked even worse had they shared the night with President Obama — he looked big; they looked small. But the truth is, they looked small anyway. Indeed, the eventual contrast wasn’t exactly helpful to the GOP — on Wednesday night, the Republican frontrunner heard applause for executing people; on Thursday night, the president heard applause for demanding job creation.

If they had it to do over again, would Boehner & Co. have taken the White House’s original offer? I bet they would.