What August Means for Health-Care Reform
Ben 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
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