Opinion: With healthcare in trouble, Obama blitz hits your computer screen soon
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For the first time, public support for President Obama‘s healthcare reform has fallen below 50%. The latest Washington Post / ABC News Poll also found that barely more than half of Americans approve of the way he is handling unemployment, which now tops 10% in California and 15% in other states. Obama himself remains more popular than his programs -- 59% give him positive reviews -- but even that represents the first time he’s fallen below 60%.
As if that weren’t enough, Democrats in Congress are now balking at the speed and cost of Obama’s healthcare reform.
The Congressional Budget Office last week threw sand into the gears of reform with a report estimating that the Democrats’ major bill would cost $1 trillion and still not cover all Americans. Now three centrist Democrats -- joined by independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and moderate Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe -- are urging Senate leaders to slow down. ‘We believe taking additional time to achieve a bipartisan result is critical for legislation that affects 17% of our economy and every individual in the U.S.,’ read the letter, also signed by Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
As for the House, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a group of Dems elected in recent years from some of the nation’s wealthiest suburbs are voting against the healthcare overhaul because of a proposed surtax on couples earning more than $350,000 a year.
So, to staunch the bleeding, the White House is planning a major blitz. Senior White House aides promise ‘an aggressive public and private schedule’ for Obama, including a press conference Wednesday night (8 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. PDT; [an earlier version of this post included a different time, 9 p.m. EDT, before the White House decided to move the press conference up]), a trip to Cleveland, and heavy use of Internet video and Democratic National Committee tie-ins to tap into the Web network that made Team Obama so successful last year.
‘Our strategy has been to allow this process to advance to the point where it made sense for the president to take the baton. Now’s that time,’ said political guru David Axelrod. ‘I don’t know whether he will Twitter or tweet. But he’s going to be very, very visible.’
Another House aide told the Washington Post: ‘It’s time to raise the stakes on this.’
-- Johanna Neuman