The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Health Care

Healthcare Town Hall Tanked on the Tube

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Here's one way to negate the power of the Obama brand to sell just about anything: add health care talk to the mix.

Last night's ABC News special on health care, criticized in advance by Republicans as an infomercial for the president's reform plan, "struggled for viewers," according to The Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed blog.

"The one-hour ABC News special 'Primetime: Questions for the President: Prescription for America' (4.7 million viewers, 1.1 preliminary adults 18-49 rating) had the fewest viewers in the 10 p.m. hour. The special tied some 8 p.m. comedy repeats as the lowest-rated program on a major broadcast network," the Reporter noted.

NBC's "Inside the Obama White House" special on June 2, in contrast, won viewers ages 18-49 during its 9 p.m. airing, garnering 9.1 million viewers over all and making NBC the ratings winner for the evening.

One possible explanation for the discrepancy comes from recent polls that show the president is more popular personally than his policies are.

The NBC special focused as much on life in the White House -- the first lady, the first dog, the lives of staffers and so on -- as any policy questions. The ABC special on the White House health care town hall, in contrast, involved more substantive but slightly dryer matters.

Ratings magnet Michelle Obama, for her part, skipped the ABC forum and, with daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, took in the Beyonce show at the Verizon Center.

Posted at 7:07 PM ET on Jun 25, 2009  | Category:  Health Care
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Obama's 'Very Best Care' For His Own Family ABC Comment Largely Unimportant Elsewhere

Posted by: StewartIII | June 27, 2009 2:41 AM

Yes, because of the two celebrity deaths the president's health care town hall suffered. Just shows where the priorities of many Americans are. But these were celeb superstars and Barack hasn't become one yet!!!

Posted by: wwdmvician | June 26, 2009 9:32 PM

perhaps the reason for the hit in theratings has to do more with the shallowness of americans. after all how can obama compete with the untimely death of pop star michael jackson. how pathetic

Posted by: afscme3261hotmailcom | June 26, 2009 8:16 PM

I watched the special, and there were many screenings here in Texas, as well as some picketing outside the ABC station complaining about it being biased (hard to imagine since no one had seen it yet). I felt it was a good start to the dialogue, although I wished it had been on PBS, to avoid all the commercial breaks.

Posted by: jdm58 | June 26, 2009 6:05 PM

I caught most of the ABC Special on healthcare from the East Room of the White House. I thought the give and take was excellent, and Obama's presiding over the forum very presidential. I love how this president gets people together across a wide spectrum of perspectives and then let's everyone "have at it." His "listening spirit" is, I believe, responsible for a sizable percentage of his favorable polling.
Nonetheless I have great concern for this event as a precedent, the White House virtually partnering with a network to present an issue--even if the debate was open ended, as it seemed to be. A better venue would have been an amphitheater in Washington away from the White House - neutral ground, in other words. Let's have more town-hall type debates on all major issues, with the president, proponents and opponents of whatever issue. But not smack dab at the White House. John Patrick Grace
Huntington, WV

Posted by: publishersplace | June 26, 2009 2:16 PM

I watched it at and it was excellent!

The audience was handpicked and many had strong perspectives. The VP of the Lewin group opposed a public option like Medicare because "it is substantially cheaper than private plans" At least we know where he stands.

Obama's response was quite substantive - pointing out that the public option does not have to follow Medicare re-imbursment pricing and that it can be structured to follow the same rules as private plans, i.e., a true level playing field.

The key points of the President's plan is 1) payment for results not piling on tests/medications, 2)giving doctors/hospitals more freedom AND more accountability to get the results, like the Mayo clinic in Rochester MN 3)eliminating the pseudo-monopolies enjoyed by existing private insurers.

PLEASE SEE FOR YOURSELF at the ABC link above.

Posted by: YoungAtheart | June 26, 2009 1:47 PM


Posted by: nancycrichton | June 26, 2009 12:28 PM

It’s pretty clear that nobody knows what the real cost or outcome of this proposed program will be. It’s one big experiment, and a complicated one at that, not to mention all the conflicting opinions. No wonder nobody was watching.

Posted by: storycipher | June 26, 2009 11:39 AM

I also did not have any idea that this program was on ABC. There was very little, if any, promotion on the part of ABC to advertise this forum on health care. I really would have enjoyed watching it, as I am sure so many others would have as well. I blame this on ABC for their low ratings. The buck stops with the ABC marketing department. No excuse for these poor have to communicate with us if you expect us to watch your specials. Perhaps a change is in order at the ABC headquarters.

Posted by: cherney5771 | June 26, 2009 10:41 AM

I don't think that healthcare issue and Obama policy were to blame for the hit in ratings.
Personally I know how many times I saw the commercials that reminded me about the NBC show behind the Obama Whitehouse; and I never saw a commercial - nor did I receive any emails telling me about the healthcare show on ABC?!?
So either, I like many others watch NBC a whole lot more than ABC - or NBC did a much much better job of promoting their show than ABC did! That is really the simple explanation about the difference.

PEOPLE will not be watching a show - if they NEVER know that it is on. period.
Don't listen to these detractors like otisplumber - NO doubt a relative of Joe's!

Posted by: rbarry13 | June 26, 2009 8:44 AM

Obama get the message your policies are not popular!

Posted by: almek11 | June 26, 2009 8:24 AM

Highly appreciatinghighest ranking of ‘Marvelous Statesmanship’ of US President - Baracxk Obama, with outstandingly passionate, highly responsible & reserved comments without any interference in sovereignty of Iran, in yesterday’s News Conference, expressed witnessing concerns with ‘Global-Eye’ i.e. a ‘Human-Eye’ regarding on-going Regional Peace Policies leading to Global Peace Initiative & Sustainable International Development Process. Of course, these positive policies & moves for ‘Development-For-All’ are visibly long-term & long-lasting and Historically recording of remarkable Obama Administration under your ‘foresighted’ Political Leadership of Peoples Government (of the peoples, by the peoples, for the peoples) of United state for ORGANIZING FOR AMERICA, and our new millennium approach & commitment to taking care for better environment on our Planet – of an ‘un-biased’ Human Earth.

Obviously, strong response by 60 to 77 % and much silent approvals of the rest must be inspiring on highly reserved, responsible and strong stand of your fabulous proceedings on national & international issues especially related with national, regional & international peace & development, Economic development, financial re-structuring and re-organizing with peoples’ friendly ‘regulations’ for healthy pace-of-economy’, and especially Research-Oriented Educational development & Health Care Reforms.

Consequently it’s national & international ethical responsibility of all who are more than 80% (in my opinion) approving & endorsing your foresighted Political Leadership & brilliant Statesmanship of Barack Obama , to come forward joining hands National Spirit i.e. the call-of-time for ORGANIZING FOR AMERICA, with ‘above-self’ & ‘above-communities’ , 'above-group', 'above-party' & 'opposition just for opposition'.

Posted by: TGlobalEyeZee | June 26, 2009 2:23 AM

This was great to hear. Now maybe this egomaniac will realize people are seeing through the messiahs lies and stupid ideas. All he wants to do is save his BROS and all the ILLEGALS.

Posted by: otisplumber | June 25, 2009 7:45 PM

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