8 a.m. ET: President Obama's poll numbers have been dropping almost since the day he took office. So as he works to sell his signature initiative, Obama plans a brief return to the place where he has achieved the most success -- the campaign trail.
Obama "will take the baton" on health care this week, according to the Washington Post, planning "an aggressive public and private schedule" of events to promote reform, including a roundtable discussion in Washington today, Wednesday's prime-time press conference and a trip to Cleveland to pitch reform. Of course, Obama won't be selling a specific plan -- he doesn't have one -- so instead his message will be focused on the urgency of the issue and the importance of a few general principles. Organizing for America, Obama's former campaign operation, will be holding events in all 50 states for this "health care reform week of action." The effort comes, the Wall Street Journal writes, as Democrats "are facing new resistance on Capitol Hill to rapid movement on health-care legislation amid concerns about the cost, the political price for raising taxes -- and even an emerging dispute about whether abortions should be covered."
Mickey Kaus asks, "When was the last time a president's campaign-style attempt to sell a policy has actually succeeded in selling the policy?" George W. Bush did a reasonably good job convincing the public that Social Security needed fixing, but was never able to sell a plan to fix it. Ditto on immigration. And while Obama has yet to endorse a specific health-care fix, do Republicans need to settle on a coherent reform plan of their own? No, Kaus argues , since the GOP can simply say to Democrats: "The status quo would be better than your plans. Vote no."
A chorus of GOP voices have criticized Democrats' reform efforts, but no single Republican so far has broken through as the party's best spokesman on the issue. The Fix notes that Bobby Jindal will step up his public profile on health care this week, hoping to do a better job opposing Obama this time around than he did delivering the response to the president's address to Congress in February. Mitch McConnell did his best to make the opposition's case on Meet the Press, calling Democrats' proposals "too drastic." Dan Balz wrote Sunday that Haley Barbour believes, "There shouldn't be just one spokesman [for Republicans]. When you're out, you're supposed to be bottom-up."
As for the majority on Capitol Hill, the New York Times wrote last week that "many Democrats were apprehensive, nervous and defensive," about the various plans their party was debating in the House and Senate. Channelling her inner Wayne and Garth, Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the reform effort was in "very excellent shape," while also stating her desire to have only the wealthiest earners pay the cost of reform. But meeting Obama's August deadline for passage of a bill is looking increasingly difficult, which may be why Peter Orszag said Sunday that timeline was "still the goal" but did not flat-out vow to achieve it.
While health-care reform may not be done by the August recess, Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation should be. The partisan sparring after Sotomayor's hearings may turn out to be feistier than the hearings themselves were. Patrick Leahy said Sunday on CNN that Republican should "stop the racial politics," a comment that drew a harsh response from Jeff Sessions on the same program. Robert Bennett announced he would vote no on her nomination, making him the first GOP senator who supported her nomination to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to oppose her this time around. But moderate Republicans appear inclined to back Sotomayor, making her confirmation increasingly certain.
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