Even when presented with the opportunity to tailor his own news agenda, George Osborne fails to reach very far beyond the core Tory vote.
The chancellor's fourth autumn statement was a predictable, focused affair which - as expected - made as much political capital as possible from the improved economic situation.
Osborne's tone for much of his 45-minute speech to cheerful Conservatives and grumpy Labour backbenchers was one of restraint. He did more to contain his natural inclinations towards smugness than had been the case in his previous big-ticket pronouncements since the summer.
Instead the focus became about Osborne's choice of emphasis. And what sticks in the mind most about his delivery was the unusual weight he placed on helping out small businesses.
This chancellor wants to be their saviour, but with Noel Gallagher hair. "We’re backing Britain’s businesses all the way!" he yelped at the climax. He just loves business. Boy oh boy. Did I mention Osborne likes business?
You get the idea.
"And we are backing Britain's families," Osborne continued, turning the volume down about six notches.
This was a revealing rhetorical signal that, in the chancellor's mind at least, families are around ten times less important than companies. The package of measures Osborne unveiled, including the income tax threshold increase which helps the poorest, was thoroughly downplayed.
Instead he chose to underline the changes he is making to help married couples - which, as Ed Balls pointed out, will only help one in six families with children in this country.
The shadow chancellor could do no more than reach the usual deadlock with Osborne in their post-statement exchanges.
Balls has come up with a good answer to the coalition's criticisms of his early doom-mongering, which now seems a little exaggerated. He now diverts attention to Osborne's own early optimism - about getting the austerity over by 2015, for example.
It's an effective neutraliser, but doesn't help win any arguments. While emphasis on the "cost-of-living crisis" is obviously the right strategy, somehow it didn't seem to have quite so much bite in the Commons today. It will almost certainly go down better on the doorstep.
In the chamber, though, Osborne was able to deflect Balls, leaving the field clear for his own electoral strategy.
It was pensioners who emerged as the biggest winners today. Not only do they get to retire at a civilised age (unlike those in generations to come) but they will not see their state pension decreased because of the cap on welfare spending being imposed by the coalition.
This autumn statement continues to rehabilitate Osborne's reputation after the 'omnishambles' Budget ruined much of 2012 for the Treasury. His self-aggrandisement popped up a few times, with a PM-esque nod to the Glasgow emergency services staff.
Let's see how long it takes before someone uses the word 'unravel' - but right now it feels like Osborne has put together a quietly Conservative package which swats away Labour and pretends the Liberal Democrats barely exist at all.
The who? You might be forgiven for forgetting we're in a coalition.
The Lib Dems must know this. It's presumably why Nick Clegg yesterday claimed there wouldn't be a recovery at all if it wasn't for them.
And why chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander sent a message to party members insisting, in a sentence ruined by the inserted qualification: "Setting the Tory marriage tax break to one side, the autumn statement is packed full of Liberal Democrat ideas."
That might be true, but it certainly didn't feel that way in the Commons chamber this lunchtime.