Scrutinizing The Candidates' Stump Speeches

The next time President Obama and Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail, they will deliver stump speeches to crowds of supporters who don't often give the messages a lot of scrutiny. In the first of two stories, NPR shows the speeches to people who would give them a more critical look: political operatives from the opposite party. First up: President Obama.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

During this disaster, President Obama and Governor Romney paused their campaigns, but there's still plenty of time before Election Day for another round of stump speeches - those partisan speeches for partisan crowds who don't give them a lot of scrutiny. So we decided to show the speeches to people who would be more critical - political operatives from the opposite party.

In this first of two parts, NPR's Tamara Keith brings us a look at a recent stump speech from President Obama.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I am fired up right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: It is good to be in Florida.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: This was delivered in Delray Beach and it's typical of the president's recent stump speeches.

OBAMA: It's not just a choice between two candidates or two parties. It is a choice between two very different visions for this country that we love.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

KEITH: The speech is up on a big screen in a conference room at Hamilton Place Strategies where Tony Fratto is a partner. Fratto used to work in the George W. Bush White House. He pauses the video when the president starts talking about the economy.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

OBAMA: So for over the last fours we've been making real progress, fighting our way back from these policies that failed America. Our businesses have now added more than five million new jobs over the past two and a half years.

(APPLAUSE)

TONY FRATTO: Everyone is going to be selective in their choice of data points.

KEITH: Fratto says the president is doing the same thing he and others in the Bush administration tried, painting the best possible picture of the labor market. Mr. Obama is only talking about the private sector because the public sector shed half a million jobs during his term.

FRATTO: They only talk about job creation. They don't talk about net job growth over the course of the administration, which they've only I think, barely gotten back to even.

OBAMA: I've laid out a plan for jobs and middle class security.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yes, man.

OBAMA: And unlike Mitt Romney, I'm actually proud to talk about what's in it.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

FRATTO: Now, hold on.

KEITH: Fratto pauses the video again. The president is holding up a blue booklet his campaign started distributing last week. Fratto points out that Mitt Romney has a plan too - a 59-point plan he was finally able to condense to five, that he recites whenever he gets a chance.

FRATTO: This is a 16-page glossy brochure. Compared to Mitt Romney's 59, 59-point plan, a glossy brochure is - I don't think it stacks up.

KEITH: As part of his plan, the president says he will cut the deficit by $4 trillion.

OBAMA: We're going to do it in a balanced way, by cutting spending we don't need, but by also asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

OBAMA: ...so we can invest in research, invest in technology, those things that keep new jobs and businesses coming to America.

FRATTO: They're like all worthy things, right? Education, research - all good things. But if you just listen to this formulation again: cut the deficit, pay taxes, but then we're going to spend it. So that's not cutting the deficit.

KEITH: Fratto isn't convinced the math adds up. Then the speech moves on to talk about defense. The president points out that Romney didn't mention the war in Afghanistan in his convention speech and didn't talk about the nation's veterans in the debate focused on national security.

OBAMA: He didn't say a word about them. Now, he may write off half the country as victims behind closed doors. But the men and women and their families who have served this country so bravely, they deserve better from somebody who is applying to be commander in chief.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

FRATTO: It's a real cheap shot.

KEITH: Again, Republican strategist, Tony Fratto.

FRATTO: The president should know better because he had to deal with those kinds of attacks when he was running for president back in 2008.

KEITH: That gets to Fratto's largest complaint with the president's stump speech. It isn't about the facts, as much as it is the tone. Fratto says he wonders what happened to the president who in his inaugural address talked about putting aside petty partisan differences.

This afternoon on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, we'll watch a Romney stump speech with a Democratic strategist.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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