White House focuses on history-making aspect of health care
1. The White House trotted out one of its most disciplined messengers -- senior adviser David Axelrod -- to make the case on the Sunday chat shows for the historic nature of President Obama's accomplishment on health care. Axelrod described the moment as a "historical crossroads" in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press", adding: "Seven presidents have tried to pass comprehensive health insurance reform, seven presidents have failed. We've been talking about it for 100 years. We're on the doorstep of getting it done, and it'll be a great victory for the American people." On "This Week with George Stephanopoulos", Axelrod used the same language to defend against the assertion that fight for the bill was far more difficult than the administration initially expected. Ditto Axelrod on CNN's "State of the Union." The appeal to history is an attempt to reinforce one of the fundamental pillars of Barack Obama's image: that he can break through old divisions and get government working again for the American people. There are, of course, two major caveats here. First, the bill passed the House with a single Republican vote -- Louisiana Rep. Joseph Cao -- and looks likely to win approval in the Senate without a single GOP vote. Second, Axelrod's supposition is heavily dependent on the bill making positive change in the way health care is delivered in the country. If the American people believe the bill was the wrong thing, the history Obama will be making is of the far more ignominious type.
2. Make sure to look out for the Fix's winners and losers from the health care debate in this space shortly. (You can still offer your own take on who won and who lost in the battle over health care too.) But, here's a taste: WINNERS: 1) Harry Reid: By hook and by crook, he got 58 Democrats and two independents behind the bill. 2) Barack Obama: The bill may not be everything the president wanted and the process of getting legislation passed was VERY messy but the fact remains that Obama got a health care bill when his predecessors had failed to do so. 3) John McCain: After months of listlessness in the Senate, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee emerged as a leading voice of the opposition to the bill. LOSERS: 1) Joe Lieberman: The Connecticut Independent's move to kill the public option was widely derided as a flip flop. It's only impact may well be to further inflame the liberal left against him. 2) Liberals: The Senate bill steadily stripped away provisions near and dear to the left while the White House cut deals with moderates. Stay tuned to this space later this morning for the Fix's full list of winners and losers.
3. The deal Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) cut for the Cornhusker State didn't satisfy Gov. Dave Heineman (R-Neb.) who quickly distanced himself from it. "Nebraskans did not ask for a special deal, only a fair deal," said Heineman. "Under no circumstances did I have anything to do with Senator Nelson's compromise." Heineman, sounding very much like a candidate, added that the "responsibility for this special deal lies solely on the shoulders of Senator Ben Nelson." Nelson isn't up for re-election until 2012 halfway through Heineman's second full term in office -- assuming he wins (and he is heavily favored to do so) next fall. The National Republican Senatorial Committee will go hard after Heineman in advance of Nelson's run for reelection and, if he runs, the GOP governor will be an even-money bet (at worst) against the Democratic incumbent. Heineman's strong attacks on Nelson despite the plaudits the senator won from strategists of both parties for his actions on health care suggest the Republican has an eye on a 2012 race.
4. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn't often offer his thoughts on his former vice presidential running mate -- former Alaska governor Sarah Palin -- so when he does it's worth paying attention. Asked on "Fox News Sunday" about Palin's blacked-out "McCain" visor, the Arizona Senator asserted that his family and the Palins have a "wonderful relationship," adding: "She is going to be a force in the Republican party for a long time and the hysterical attacks on her from the left continue to validate that." The truth is that McCain and Palin aren't close -- although they are not at daggers-drawn in the way that the former governor is with some of the presidential campaign staff. If Palin runs in 2012, however, it could put McCain in a somewhat awkward position as each represents a very different thread of Republicanism. Add to that fact that two of McCain's personal friends -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and South Dakota Sen. John Thune -- could well be in the race and the Arizona senator may be headed for a tough decision come endorsement time.
5. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) is doing absolutely nothing to indicate he will run for higher office in 2010, according to a piece in Sunday's New York Daily News. The story quotes Guy Molinari, the father of former Rep. Susan Molinari and a major player in New York Republican politics, saying bluntly that there is "no evidence" that Giuliani will run for anything next November. The Giuliani inner circle has indicated that a run for Senate is a possibility -- albeit a long shot -- while a run for governor is out. (Giuliani believes state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will, eventually, be the Democratic nominee and that winning such a race would be extremely difficult.) While the Senate may be an easier target -- appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is not well known statewide -- there's a very simple reason why Giuliani won't run for that seat either. To do so would require him to run a $20 million plus campaign in 2010 and, if he won, to turn around and do it all again in 2012 in order to win a full six-year term in his own right. While Gillibrand, at 43, is on the early end of her political career and can fathom that sort of four year financial and political commitment, Giuliani, at 65, is on the other side of his political life and such a campaigning marathon can't appeal to him.
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