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Health-Care Reform Is Popular. But the Bill Isn't.

These poll results are either very good for health-care reform or very bad. It's hard to say:

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken last week found its sample split 41 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving of Obama's efforts on health-care reform. The numbers are almost identical to Bill Clinton's scores on the same question in June 1994, the month his effort failed.

The same survey offered a preview of the debate that now awaits us. When voters were asked to rate Obama's health-care plan, 36 percent said it was a good idea and 42 percent called it a bad one. But later in the poll, when the interviewer read an accurate, neutrally phrased description of the main features of the plan that Obama supports, it commanded strong support -- winning approval 56 to 38 percent.

This isn't a surprising dynamic. It happen to ClintonCare in the 1990s. It happened to immigration reform. It happens to lots of major pieces of legislation. The bills themselves become controversial and confusing. Opponents lie about them and supporters don't explain them clearly. Soon enough, the public begins to back away from them slowly, unsure if anything this confusing can possibly solve the problem. But that doesn't mean the underlying ideas become unpopular, or people stop wanting action on the problem.

As David Broder points out, health-care reformers retain an advantage because Barack Obama is far more trusted than the Republicans who oppose his plan. But that means he somehow has to get the focus back on the ideas behind the bill and the problems that led to the bill. The longer that the story is about process and smears about specific lines of text, the lower the poll numbers will drop.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 6, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Polls  
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Barack Obama, despite protestations of transparency, appears to prefer working behind the scenes, out of sight. He has had the better part of a year to build support and clarify his arguments and battle plans. He has demurred every time. Once in a while, he'll arouse himself to tell a story, then return to the back room deal making. I have heard you and many others say "Just wait until his campaign operation, his massive email list, his grassroots groups hit the ground." Ok, where are they?

Politics ain't beanbag, and it ain't community organizing either. You aren't talking to people with common interest. You are talking to people with clashing interests. If I gain, my insurance company necessarily loses. That is the arena for hardball, something which he appears constitutionally incapable of doing.

Posted by: pj_camp | August 6, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

President Obama may fail over Health care, because the Democrat leadership of Sen Harry Reid, Speaker Pelosi added these services free-of-charge to the 20 million plus illegal immigrants and their families. The cost is trillions of dollars according to Robert Rector, top analyst of the Heritage Foundation. All these money will be further accentuated by the cornucopia of other welfare entitlements, that will keep attracting millions more illegal aliens. These mandatory federal laws are enforced on taxpayers by the IRS, which has drained state, county treasuries for absolute decades. America cannot have a government run health care system, until restrictions are placed on anybody who are unable to prove their citizenship status or residency. Like Europe, America has been invaded by mass hordes of legal and illegal immigrants, with consequences of a overburdened government health care system.

Posted by: infinity555 | August 6, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to Chicago style politics. Obama is done. His idea of amnesty to the estimated 40 million illegal aliens will not stand. Finish the real border fence, and not the phoney fence it is being watered down to. Enforce E-Verify. Go through our prisons and deport all illegal aliens. Deport all illegal aliens period.

Until our government, both Republican and Democratic start putting the interests of its citizens ahead of their own political agendas we will not get this issue under control.

Look at HR 1868 to end the so called Anchor Baby route to citizenship. This law proposes that any child born on US Territory at the time of birth have one parent that is a US citizen.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | August 9, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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