The Campaign Spot

All the GOP Has to Do Is Reinforce Public Skepticism, and I Think They’re Doing That

At Red County, Chip Hanlon fears the health-care summit is going badly for Republicans, and Quin Hillyer agrees that the GOP participants aren’t being tough enough.

I must be watching a different summit. I could be wrong; maybe I’m bringing too much of my own inclinations and viewing to this; maybe your average swing voter sees all this completely differently.
Of course, your average swing voter isn’t watching this; they’re at work (or, since this is Obama’s economy, looking for work).
There are a lot of flaws in this health-care bill, but I think one of the reasons it’s polling badly – opposition between 46 and 56 percent, support between 31 and 41 – is because it represents a big and unknown change to a public that is wary, and particularly nervous about big, sweeping changes during a time of economic uncertainty. As I’ve noted, Obama and the Democrats made a lot of similarly grandiose promises about the stimulus that haven’t panned out. Their credibility is pretty damaged right now.
The Democrats have a much, much tougher job today: They have to win over skeptics. The Republicans just have to keep pointing out all the flaws and ways it won’t work — cost, limitation of choice, overblown promises of cost containment, tax hikes, the likelihood of higher premiums, etc.; they haven’t even gotten to abortion or illegal-immigrant coverage yet — and give the skeptics enough reason to say, “Yeah, this just isn’t going to work; big, expensive government programs never live up to their promises.”
The Democrats are offering a lot of anecdotes about Baby Jesus, Steny Hoyer’s answering machine, and the teeth of the dead. Obama is at his least persuasive; he keeps ruling GOP arguments out of bounds for one reason or another – don’t hold up a copy of the bill, don’t cite Washington because people are angry at Washington right now, don’t ask for equal time, don’t focus on where we disagree, don’t remind me of what I said as candidate. I don’t think that transforms the skeptics into supporters.