The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Rundown

Fixing Obama's Message Problem

By Ben Pershing
How bad is President Obama's health-care message problem, and can it be fixed this late in the game?

The new NBC News poll paints a sobering picture for the administration. While the topline data is similar to what the same survey found last month -- narrow pluralities disapprove of Obama's handling of health care, and think his plan is "a bad idea" -- the numbers showed significant confusion over what the primary Democratic reform plans would and wouldn't do. "Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions -- all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress," according to NBC. "Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly."

The persistence of those misconceptions about health-care reform and the White House's semantic dance in recent days over whether it wants a public insurance option illustrate the administration's dilemma going forward. Before Obama can rally support for his vision of reform, he has to make sure voters -- and the press -- actually understand what he's proposing. As of today, they don't. That explains why, as the Wall Street Journal writes this morning, Obama "will likely shift his pitch in September ... to talk more about the moral imperative to provide health insurance to all Americans." The revised approach reportedly will include more speeches, fewer town halls and redoubled efforts to sort fact from fiction.

Continue reading at Political Browser »

Posted at 8:33 AM ET on Aug 19, 2009  | Category:  The Rundown
Share This: Technorati talk bubble Technorati | Tag in | Digg This
Previous: POTUS Events: Athletes and Faith Leaders | Next: In the Absence of Specifics, 'Public Option' Looms Large

Add 44 to Your Site
Be the first to know when there's a new installment of The Trail. This widget is easy to add to your Web site, and it will update every time there's a new entry on The Trail.
Get This Widget >>


Please email us to report offensive comments.

You mean the problem with selling Socialism? It's not easy!

Posted by: arby1 | August 19, 2009 2:48 PM

Amazing stat from the poll is that the number of Americans who support Obama's reform plans goes up by 30 points when they are actually read what it would entail. That's losing the message war, big time...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | August 19, 2009 11:58 AM

Posted by: amsatprovider3 | August 19, 2009 11:36 AM

"Armed rebellion" -- ??

Please disclose the location of your blog-spamming operation.

Better yet -- WaPo, analyze the IP addresses of these incendiary posts to discern a pattern. You may uncover a story about agit-propaganda, perhaps paid for by the public's dime.

Posted by: scrivener50 | August 19, 2009 10:44 AM

Message problem???? No its a content problem. Why does the Post always treat the public like this?? If this administration passes this bill against the will of the people, they will be dealing w/ alot more than a backlash at the polls in 2010, they may be faced with an armed rebellion!!

Posted by: CTLangis | August 19, 2009 10:03 AM


The co-op alternative could prove to be an Obama master stroke -- a decentralized system of publicly-owned and operated health care that's not under the yoke of either Big Government or Big Business.

As a former disciple of Ralph Nader, President Obama understands the virtues of publicly-owned co-ops. No costly and unwieldy bureaucracy, no allegiance to hidden bureaucratic or corporate agendas.

Could it be that once again, the media pundits are underestimating the Obama savvy? This way, he can't be called a "socialist" because co-ops are owned by their members, not the government. And he's not surrendering to corporate interests because co-ops offer the benefits of a decrentralized mutualism, similar to the administration of a mutual fund owned by member-investors.

I hope I haven't given anything away to his political opposition... but I believe there's a sound methodology at work here. Keep the faith.


But President Obama also must dismantle the anti-democratic extrajudicial punishment "matrix" that he inherited from the Bush administration -- because "community stalkers" that comprise a grassroots American Gestapo appear to have infiltrated the health care system, jeopardizing the quality of care for their "targets."


Posted by: scrivener50 | August 19, 2009 10:00 AM

President Obama once candidate Obama did a great job during the campaign on getting his message out.

Clearly the message from his camp has not be strong enough to counter the mis-information that has been thrown out by detractors. But now he understands fully what has to be done to lift the 'cloud' over his support for a Public Option. I am confident he will do what's necessary to change this around.
Its' a hard six months, given all that has been handed to him.. but he's a great thinker and a savvy politician who will get the job done.

Not to mention a great deal of 'fat' was thrown at Wall Street, now they are celebrating with big bonuses at the taxpayers expense.

Full time to work just as hard to throw a bone to his supporters. Mis-information will not prevent him from fulfilling what he promised.

Posted by: Victoria5 | August 19, 2009 9:37 AM

The title of your article is misleading. It should be "Correcting Republican lies". The White House has been very patient with the stream of distortions and lies by Republicans. Time to move on and get it done. There is a related post at

Posted by: carlyt | August 19, 2009 9:36 AM

Take Barney Frank's lead and don't back down from idiotic comments in town hall meetings. Don't treat people comparing the President to Hitler or his plans with those of Nazi Germany with any respect- they don't deserve any.

Posted by: AndrearKline | August 19, 2009 9:33 AM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company