Even those who liked the speech generally went no further than saying that Obama was effective in doing a job that needed to be done, in a tough-minded if prosaic style.

These shoulder - shrug reactions confront Obama with a question no one expected to be asking when the week in Charlotte began: How did a president for whom stirring speeches were the engine of his rise to power manage to give, at best, only the third - most compelling speech at a convention devoted to his own re - election?

The answer is not simply that Michelle Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s performances were especially strong.

It is that Obama made a seemingly deliberate choice to keep his remarks chained tightly to the politics of ۲۰۱۲—a race that has been defined by relentless, almost mechanical efforts to motivate voters with narrow appeals to specific constituencies and to destroy the opposition as a credible alternative.

The performance underscored the limits of Obama’s oratorical skills in the context of a grind - it - out campaign strategy.

In a sign that Obama’s high command recognized that were doubts about just how helpful the speech was, though, a senior aide went to reporters on Air Force One Friday to reveal the results of their focus groups on the address – something the campaign rarely does publicly and surely wouldn’t have felt the need to do if the speech had been received as a home run.

According to the pool report, the official said the campaign conducted research on the various speeches “and I think the American people responded very well to the president’s speech. ”

“They first of all found it to be optimistic, they found it to be credible in terms of his ideas and goals that would help the economy, ” said the Obama adviser, adding that their research indicated positive reaction on Obama’s discussion of foreign policy.

The reaction among even many progressive commentators was less effusive.

“Let’s be blunt. Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase, ” wrote Michael Tomasky, the editor of the progressive journal Democracy, at The Daily Beast, in a line that was representative of other commentary.

James Carville, who wanted something bolder, was disappointed. “Certainly not the best speech of this convention, ” Carville tweeted minutes after Obama left the podium with wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia.

The speech “got the job done. But I didn’t feel any real passion in the delivery. It felt more like an actor soldiering through his lines, ” wrote Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. “There was nothing memorable, nothing forward looking, and nothing that drew a contrast with Romney in sharp, gut - level strokes. Obama was, to be charitable, no more than the third best of the Democratic convention’s prime time speakers in ۲۰۱۲. ”

"Safe speech,” one underwhelmed Democratic strategist told POLITICO. "It's kind of like you ask someone out on a date, and [at the end] they say, 'Oh, he's nice.'”