Post-reform polls show little movement
By Ben Pershing
Much has changed in Washington over the last two weeks, as Congress passed a sweeping health-reform bill and Barack Obama's presidency became known by both friend and foe as a historically consequential one. But according to a host of new surveys, one thing hasn't changed all that much -- public opinion.
USA Today reports that the paper's new poll with Gallup "shows an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats to convince most Americans that the health care overhaul passed last week will help them and their families. In the poll, 50% call passage of the bill'"a bad thing' and 47% say it was 'a good thing.' That's at odds with the findings of a one-day USA TODAY Poll taken a week ago -- a day after the U.S. House approved the legislation -- in which a 49%-40% plurality called the bill 'a good thing.'" Gallup adds that "[o]ne week after the passage of historic new healthcare legislation, Americans remain worried about the bill's effect on costs -- both for the nation as a whole and for them personally. A majority of Americans say healthcare costs in the U.S. and the federal budget deficit will get worse as a result of the bill. Half of Americans believe that healthcare costs for themselves and their families will get worse."
As for Obama himself, CNN writes: "Passage of the landmark health care bill appears to have boosted President Barack Obama's approval rating, but it has not affected his re-election chances so far, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday indicates that 51 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing in the White House, with 48 percent saying they disapprove. That 51 percent approval rating is up five points from a week ago, before Congress approved the health care reform bill and the president signed the legislation into law. Four in ten respondents say they disapprove because Obama is too liberal and 6 percent say they the president is not liberal enough." Before the Gallup and CNN surveys were released, Chris Good wrote that "three major polls have been released, and mostly tell a favorable story for President Obama. They do not show health care suddenly supported by a wide margin--in fact, they show it's still unpopular--but, while the picture is a bit murky, they do offer a few encouraging signs for Obama and his party."
Politico agrees that "Democrats who held out hopes that President Barack Obama's health reform win would mean a quick boost to the party's political fortunes are getting a reality check - a reminder that it takes more than one good week to shake up a year of sliding polls. Obama and his health reform plan did get a bump in several surveys immediately after the House vote eight days ago - but the numbers in some of those polls flattened out, showing how difficult it will be for Obama to capitalize on reform, even after his top legislative goal cleared Congress." Nate Silver bears down on a specific state: "[I]t would stand to reason that Obama's 2012 strategy may not be able to bank on the Sunshine State. Seniors don't like the health care plan and vote in great numbers in Florida. And there are also a lot of Jewish voters in Florida who might not be pleased with Obama's somewhat hawkish stance toward Israeli settlements. This isn't rocket science. Yes, completely different issues may be on the table by the time that '12 rolls around. ... And it's a little early to be worrying too much about the electoral math. But considering how tenuous Obama's hold over Florida was in the first place -- it wasn't really a swing state in 2008 so much as a come-along-for-the-ride state -- just a point or two that pushes it further to the right of the country as a whole could deprive it of the critical role it has played in past election cycles. Obama could perfectly easily still win it -- but it seems doubtful that he'd win it before an Ohio or a Colorado or some other combination of states that has him well past the 270 mark."
The Wall Street Journal senses a new tone from the White House: "President Barack Obama, after a year of fitfully searching for compromise, is taking a more aggressive tack with his Republican adversaries, hoping to energize Democratic voters and possibly muscle in some Republican support in Congress. On Thursday, the president challenged Republicans who planned to campaign on repealing his health-care bill with, 'Go for it.' Two days later, he made 15 senior appointments without Senate consent, including a union lawyer whose nomination had been blocked by a filibuster. At a bill-signing event Tuesday, he is set to laud passage of higher-education legislation that was approved despite Republican objections through a parliamentary maneuver that neutralized the party's filibuster threat. On Thursday, Mr. Obama will be in Maine, home state of two moderate Republican senators who opposed his health-care plan, to promote the health law." On the brighter side, the Associated Press examines "Obama's sense of humor: mordant, self-deprecating, deeply ironic. Does Barack Obama have a funny bone? The president certainly doesn't seem to see himself as a natural comic. But more often than he gets credit for, he flashes a sharp and wry humor. It's an important component of his style, helping to humanize an otherwise detached persona in ways that could prove valuable in the political wars ahead."
The New York Times reports: "An association representing 300 large corporations urged President Obama and Congress on Monday to repeal a provision of the health care overhaul that prompted AT&T, Caterpillar and other companies to announce substantial charges for the current quarter. The association, the American Benefits Council, said the provision -- which reduces the tax deductions for companies with drug coverage for their retired employees -- would deal a significant blow to corporate profits and would discourage companies from hiring more workers." Henry Waxman has already called on those companies to explain why they're taking those charges now, and CongressDaily writes: "House Minority Leader Boehner today accused Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman of using intimidation-like tactics in demanding congressional testimony from employers to back their claims the new healthcare law will be costly and undercut job creation." AP reveals that "[u]nder the health care overhaul, young adults who buy their own insurance will carry a heavier burden of the medical costs of older Americans -- a shift expected to raise insurance premiums for young people when the plan takes full effect. Beginning in 2014, most Americans will be required to buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. That's when premiums for young adults seeking coverage on the individual market would likely climb by 17 percent on average."
Will Republicans keep calling for repeal? Sarah Palin certainly is, Mark Halperin writes: "In Washington, many Republican leaders are now waffling and wavering over their previous aggressively negative stance on the health care bill, seeing peril in opposing the measure's more popular provisions. They are searching for a more nuanced and modulated message that will allow them to avoid the damning Party of No label, while still making their principles clear. But Sarah Palin doesn't really do nuance or modulation. Defiance is more her style, and this past weekend she used her folksy brand of full-throated opposition to dominate American politics yet again with appearances in Arizona and Nevada. ... With a trio of short, spunky speeches, she leaped back to the top of the broadcast networks' evening newscasts and a dominant position on cable TV, simply by stating her unvarnished opposition to Obamacare and deriding Democrats, Washington élites and the press." Palin says she is backing three Iraq War veterans in their House campaigns. The Atlantic notes that it's been "a tricky month" for Mitt Romney, linking to the Huffington Post video "Ob'omneycare," a tribute to Romney's "attempt to bend, twist and wiggle his way through a contradictory political position."
Scott Brown takes to the op-ed page to declare that "the health care fight is not over" and explain that he is "working on legislation that would allow states to opt out of this federal health care bill because states need flexibility, not a federal government takeover of health care." Peter Beinart sees Obama becoming a "liberal Reagan," explaining: "With the passage of health care, Obama has now had his air-traffic controllers' moment. When Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, it convinced many political observers that the old rules still applied. The country was still basically suspicious of big government, and thus, the only way for a Democratic president to survive was to do what Bill Clinton did after 1994: content himself with incremental change, accept the political parameters that Reagan established, be a Democratic Eisenhower. When Obama decided to push for comprehensive reform anyway, he signaled that he would not play that role. And when he and the Democrats won, they blew up the old political order. In Washington, for the first time in his presidency, Obama is feared." John Harwood warns: "In politics, as in sports, the thrill of victory sometimes pales alongside the agony of defeat. In 2010, Democrats remain on track to experience both. Achievement of their decades-long quest for comprehensive health care legislation left Congressional leaders and White House aides jubilant. It broke, at least temporarily, the psychology of failure that threatened President Obama's administration as it had burdened President George W. Bush's tenure. But the new spring in the steps of Democratic lawmakers has not reversed the likelihood that there will be fewer of them next year."
After all the focus on health-care, Obama will shift attention Tuesday to the other piece of the reconciliation bill. AP writes: "President Barack Obama prepared Tuesday to sign the piece of his sweeping health care overhaul that makes the government the primary lender to students and strips banks of that power. Obama's hard-fought legislative victory packaged two of his domestic priorities. Obama already signed the bulk of the health care legislation, but a final set of tweaks provided a route for the education package, the largest rewrite of federal college assistance programs in four decades." On a similar front, the Wall Street Journal reports that "the Obama administration delivered a jolt to U.S. public education Monday by selecting just two states, Delaware and Tennessee, to receive $600 million in hard-fought grants designed to help districts overhaul their programs. The awards are part of the administration's $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition, which has sparked a nationwide scramble among states to prove which of them is championing the most robust changes. Forty states and the District of Columbia applied for the grants." The Washington Post says Arne Duncan "acknowledged that the small winner's circle was designed as an incentive for other states to continue revamping their education policies. It also deflects suggestions that the administration would seek to spread the money around as quickly and widely as possible to help Obama win favor in key political states."
Somehow March almost ended without a new controversy involving Michael Steele. Politico reports: "A Republican National Committee staffer who accompanied a group of young donors to a bondage-themed West Hollywood club and then expensed the nearly $2,000 tab has been fired by the committee, POLITICO has learned. RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay announced the firing in an internal committee email obtained by POLITICO. 'This was not an RNC sanctioned event and was not associated in any way with any RNC official event,' McKay wrote of the February outing to Voyeur, a West Hollywood club modeled after the risqué Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman movie 'Eyes Wide Shut.' The late-night excursion followed an official RNC event in Los Angeles for donors in its 'Young Eagles' program, McKay wrote, stressing that neither Chairman Michael Steele nor any senior staff were aware of either the outing or the committee's reimbursement of the cost. ... McKay also wrote that the donor who was reimbursed for footing the bill at Voyeur, Erik Brown, "has verbally agreed to repay the funds to the RNC."
The Washington Post says "the RNC's expenses ... set off another round of GOP infighting over Steele, whose combative style and frequent pratfalls have earned him friends and enemies. The chairman angered many party insiders by releasing a book this year without notifying Republican leaders; he stumbled into another controversy this month after the leak of an RNC fundraising document featuring crude caricatures of President Obama and other Democratic leaders. Steele also has come under fire for his management of the organization's finances. The RNC had more than $22 million on hand when he arrived last year, but is down to less than $10 million, despite raising a record $96 million during that time, records show." The Fix cautions, "For all those wondering whether this story will be the one that forces Steele out at the RNC, remember that two-thirds of the committee men and women would have to vote him out and there is no one -- not even Steele's most bitter enemies -- who think that is a possibility. Simply put: Unless Steele resigns (not likely) or some other major revelation that links him directly to this night club incident comes out, he will be the chairman through 2010."
March 30, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Health Care , The Rundown
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