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.
August 19, 2009; 8:33 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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