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What August Means for Health-Care Reform

PH2009072400947.jpgBen Smith and Kenneth Vogel had a very nice piece in Sunday's Politico detailing the importance of August for health-care reform. The White House, remember, had wanted the question settled by now. They wanted the legislation passed by August. But that's not going to happen. And so they -- and everyone else -- are gearing up for a massive ground war that could decide the fate of health-care reform.

August, after all, is not like any other month. It's recess. Members of Congress return home. And how those members vote on health-care reform when they come back to Washington will depend on the reaction they get in their districts. If the town halls and poll numbers and editorial boards convince them that health-care reform is a winner, they'll stick with the president. If not, not.

As you might imagine, every group with even the barest element of interest -- from the White House to the grassroots to the industry players to the party organizations -- is gearing up for a massive push in the district's of wavering legislators. And the evidence right now is that the reformers are further ahead in their preparations:

Conversations with leaders on both sides, and a measure of the early activity, however, suggest that the White House will maintain its advantage in money and organization.

That spending has already begun, and its level is unprecedented, experts say, both in sheer volume and balance. According to data from the Campaign Media and Analysis Group, most of the ad spending this year has been to support initiatives pushed by Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress.

“That has almost never been the case in any administration,” said Evan Tracey, CMAG’s chief operating officer.

Through mid-July, CMAG, which uses automated capture technologies to monitor the airwaves, identified $9.7 million supporting Obama’s recently unveiled health care plan, $4.7 million opposing it, and $19.7 million more in generalized spending by groups staking out positions either before Obama detailed his plan or not directly supporting or opposing it.

That $19.7 million represents industry players and the business community. How they break over this next month is probably the decisive question for health-care reform. But one of the real factors here is the total disarray of the Republicans. And it's about to get worse.

Message control is hard in August. It's easy enough to coordinate when everyone is walking the halls of the Capitol. It's much harder once they've left. And Republicans have no recognized spokespeople who can carry their message. In 1994, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole were both able to act as leaders of the opposition. They could speak for the national party. They have no analogues today. And because they have no analogues today, industry players are more wary of crossing the White House, and Obama is better able to get his message out. That gives reformers some significant advantages going into this next month. But even so, this isn't where they wanted to be.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Tony Dejak

By Ezra Klein  |  July 27, 2009; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Bonus points to the first journalist with the headline: "August is the cruelest month..."

Posted by: Castorp1 | July 27, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

One must ask themselves: If an idea needs a media blitz of advertising to push its "merits", how good can it really be?

Shouldn't it be able to sell itself on its own merits?

The White House knows that people are questioning the healthcare policy it's pushing on us to accept.

The bills passed in committee will be gone over with a fine-tooth comb, and their details, good and bad, will be flushed out. I think this is what Obama is afraid of.

Posted by: boosterprez | July 27, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Why did President Obama seem so inarticulate at his press conference? Why was each "answer" an incoherent, meandering filibuster? Because he is peddling a catastrophically bad plan, his arguments for it are self-contradictory and make no sense, and he has no new or better arguments to make. All the money and lobbying effort in the world can't change this,

Posted by: wbcoleman | July 27, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

This healthcare bill is a bad idea. I hope August is enough time to point this out.

Here is a website that purports to expose some problems with the healthcare bill in Congress:

Posted by: keller_6 | July 27, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

maybe Pelosi will actually contribute something to health care during the august recess and have some of her facial skin cells scraped off and given to colen research.

Posted by: JWx2 | July 27, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: demtse | July 27, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse


The healthcare reform bill released by the House Of Representatives is an excellent bill as I understand it. It's a bill with a strong, robust, government-run public option, and an intelligent, reasonable initial funding plan to cover almost all of the American people. It is carefully written, and thoughtfully constructed, informed, prudent and wise. This bill will save trillions of dollars, and millions of your lives. It is also now supported by the AMA.

This is the type of bill that all Americans can feel good about. And this is the type of bill that has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans. Rich, middle class and poor a like. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all other party affiliations. This bill has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life of every American.

The house healthcare bill should be viewed as the minimum GOLD STANDARD by which all other proposed healthcare legislation should be judged. All supporters of true high quality healthcare reform should now place all your support behind this healthcare reform bill released by the United States House Of Representatives, as the minimum Gold standard for healthcare reform in America.

You should all now support this bill with all your might, and all of your unrelenting tenacity. This healthcare bill is a VERY, VERY GOOD! bill for all of the American people. Fight tooth, and nail for every bit of this bill if you have too. Be aggressive, creative, and relentless for this bill.

From this time forward, go BIGGER and DEEPER with the American people every day until passage of healthcare reform with a robust, government-run public option.

FIGHT!! like your life and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES!


Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (

God Bless You

Jack Smith — Working Class

Posted by: JackSmith1 | July 27, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The last time I left the doctors office, I was given,
'Making Medical Decisions In Advance:
Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney for Medical Decisions'
Check Your Policy !!
This must be in anticipation of the bill passing.

Posted by: RayOne | July 27, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

The healthcare debacle demonstrates that it's time to take the spending power from the politicians and give it back to the taxpayer. Congress has no idea what it takes to run a successful business or get value for their money. After all it’s our money they are spending not theirs.

Taxpayers are better stewards of the money they earn than Congress.

Support Taxpayer Control

Posted by: taxpayer2009 | July 27, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Nothing this big should be done unless we have honest people at the helm. We simply do not. Hey, the Obamas will be enjoying August at a 30 million dollar spread. But you, you need to sacrifice and have skin in the game. We've got such a crew of limousine liberals running the show now it isn't funny.

Posted by: truck1 | July 27, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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