Obama Lobbies The Public, Fellow Dems And One GOP Senator
In his Sunday talk show appearance, President Obama conceded that he has not been "breaking through" on the health care debate, the Chicago Tribune reports. "I think there have been times where I have said, 'I've got to step up my game in terms of talking to the American people about issues like health care,'" he said, after reporters asked whether he'd lost control of the debate.
The Tribune continues: "Critics of the president suggested that doubters in the public have heard the president's message -- they just aren't buying it. 'Actually, he has broken through. People don't like what he is selling,' said Alex Castellanos, a Washington-based GOP consultant and campaign media expert. 'This is not a communications problem.' The TV appearances presented a risk for the president, as does his broader strategy of staking so much political capital on a health care bill, said Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster who worked for President Bill Clinton. 'If he doesn't get a bill, he's been on five Sunday shows, David Letterman, and, if he doesn't move the needle, it's hard to see how he wins. And the midterm elections become very problematic' for his party, Schoen said. 'He is doubling down, betting the ranch and putting it all on the line on the basis that his communications skills are superior and that he can carry the day'" (Silva, 9/21).
In an analysis in The New York Times' Week in Review, authors David Blumenthal, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and James Morone, a political science professor at Brown University, suggest President Obama look to President Johnson, who squeezed the Medicare program through Congress, for some pointers. Johnson's strategy involved hastily moving legislation; keeping the economists' projections quiet; using congressional process to his advantage; giving lawmaker credit; building public momentum, as the president attempted Sunday; and displaying passion for reform (9/20).
The president's focus has been on congressional Democrats and Republican Senators, leaving House Republicans out in the cold, The Hill reports. After telling Congress he would have an open-door policy for meetings about the critical legislation, the White House has refused to schedule meetings with the handful of GOP lawmakers who requested them. Democrats say that's fine: "They are irredeemably opposed; ideologically dug in; they've already made it clear that they have no interest in this," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said (Hooper, 9/20).
In his effort to win public and congressional support, however, the most critical target may be Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, The New York Times reports in a separate story. Though Snowe has not declared her support for any Democratic health bill, she offered the Times "a surprisingly robust endorsement of Mr. Obama's skepticism about expanding government too much, his willingness to accommodate different views and his assertion that Washington must act now after decades of failure" (Harwood, 9/20).