Obama trying to wean himself off teleprompter

According to The Hill, President Obama will stop using his teleprompter for most campaign speeches and refer to hand written notes instead:

At recent campaign events in Pennsylvania, Virginia and again Monday in Ohio, Obama spoke to crowds in high school gymnasiums and at crowded outdoor events without his teleprompter, instead using written notes.

The difference is dramatic. Instead of turning in his characteristic manner from right to left and back again, reading from the two sloping, clear-plastic planes of his teleprompter, Obama has glanced down at pages in a binder on his podium.

Team Obama thinks the switch, or partial switch - the president is not giving up the teleprompter entirely - will help him better connect with voters.

Critics have mocked Obama's routine use of the teleprompter, including in speeches to schoolchildren. And the new use of written notes appears intended to trade away the smooth, distant demeanor of teleprompter rhetoric for a little more immediacy and vigor. A senior administration official acknowledged the shift in the president's style, saying Obama is speaking "more extemporaneously."

But the senior official said the lack of teleprompters has "less to do with image and more to do with upping the tempo" at campaign events, while creating more unscripted moments.

Not using a teleprompter lets Obama be more spontaneous on the stump. Since making the shift, the president at times has ad-libbed remarks while playing off his supporters' reactions, something that had been difficult with a teleprompter.

"It's become a crutch," Tobe Berkovitz, a professor of communications at Boston University who specializes in political communications, said in describing Obama's use of the teleprompter. 

"It seemed as though he couldn't go anywhere without them, and it made him seem unconfident and robotic in dealing with real people out there," Berkovitz said.

Does David Axelrod, Obama's chief political strategist, really want the president to be more "spontaneous" on the stump? Axelrod has seen the president at press conferences and knows what can happen when Obama goes unscripted. I have this vision of Axelrod and other Obama campaign officials getting white knuckles at every campaign stop the president doesn't use the prompter.

But really, it's not such a big deal. "The Speech" is given over and over so that the president doesn't really need a teleprompter after having given the same address 50 times. Or maybe he does. Regardless, let's hope that Obama makes a few gaffes that, if not game changers, will at least keep us entertained for a while.

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