Morning Fix: Of Superdelegates and Health Care
The White House's strategy on health care over the past week -- leaking out the names of a handful of prominent Republican supporters each day -- closely resembles the way then candidate Barack Obama used his cache of superdelegates to build momentum during the prolonged fight for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.
The similarities between the two situations are clear. Both were protracted -- and high profile -- fights that featured daily skirmishes for territory and momentum.
In the campaign, Obama's team carefully managed their greatest asset -- a treasure trove of superdelegates who had privately committed to him -- to do three things: 1) control the narrative of the day by leaking out new supporters early in the news cycle 2) build a daily drumbeat of momentum and inevitability by parceling out new backers over days and then weeks and 3) blunt negative news cycles by releasing names to show that nothing had structurally changed in the race.
Fast forward to the fight over health care. For the first three days of this week, names of Republican supporters of getting some bill passed -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist -- began to find their way into the hands of reporters early each day. (Sources within the White House insist the trickle of prominent Republican supporters will continue in the days ahead.)
Within 72 hours, the narrative had changed from the divisions among Democrats on the bill to the rancor among Republicans.
"This helps change the narrative to a discussion of when health care will pass, not if," said one senior White House aide granted anonymity to speak candidly.
To be clear, the White House's strategy to bring pressure to bear on congressional Republicans by touting the support of outside-the-Beltway GOPers has its limits.
There remain real fissures within the Democratic Party -- particularly over whether the final health care bill should include a public option -- and polling suggests that the American public remains far from sold on the plan.
But, momentum matters in policy matter just like it does in political fights. And, the White House is using the lessons it learned in campaign 2008 to try and win the major fight of the president's first year in office.
Friday's Fix Picks: Huge game for Catholic field hockey tomorrow. H-U-G-E.
1. President Obama: Nobel Prize winner.
2. Ethics Committee expands Rangel investigation.
3. The White House's attempt to keep the left in line.
4. A primary challenge to Bill McCollum in Florida?
5. Babe Ruth at the bat.
Corzine Leads in N.J. . . . : Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has opened up a narrow 41 percent to 38 percent lead over former U.S. attorney Chris Christie (R) in a new poll conducted by Democracy Corps, a Democratic-affiliated operation. Neither candidate is well regarded by voters. Thirty-seven percent have a favorable opinion of Corzine while 46 percent regard him in an unfavorable light; 30 percent of the sample feel favorably toward Christie, 42 percent unfavorably. Voter distaste toward the two major party nominees may be fueling the rise of independent candidate Chris Daggett who stood at 14 percent in the survey.
. . . Or Christie Leads in N.J.: A Survey USA (auto-dialed) poll conducted for WABC-TV showed Christie at 43 percent to 40 percent for Corzine and 14 percent for Daggett. In the Survey USA poll, Christie held a 44 percent to 32 percent edge among independents, a critical piece of his win strategy given the Garden State's strong Democratic inclinations.
Clinton Casts NY-23 In National Light: Former president Bill Clinton argued that the Nov. 3 special election in New York's 23rd district will be a "referendum on President Obama's agenda for health care" in an e-mail solicitation for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Polling suggests that the race between businessman Bill Owens (D), state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) and Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman is a toss-up. The DCCC has spent $231,000 on independent expenditures in the contest while the National Republican Congressional Committee has already dropped $313,000.
Click It!: The Democratic National Committee calls out Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) on health care. (Flashback: The DNC calls out the Fix!)
Coleman (Not That One) Takes a Pass on MN-Gov: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (D) will not run for governor in 2010, he announced late Thursday. "I'm going to work on the business of St. Paul," Coleman said, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Coleman's decision to back away from the race takes one high-profile potential candidate out of the mix but adds further confusion to what is already an extremely crowded field. Many state and national Democrats continue to wait on Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak who is openly mulling the race and, according to smart party insiders, is likely to run. The Republican field is equally muddled and will stay that way until former senator Norm Coleman makes a final call on whether or not he will run.
Jones to Mercury: Emil Jones Jr. (D), the longtime president of the Illinois state Senate, has signed on to oversee the Chicago office of Mercury Public Affairs. "Emil Jones is, quite simply, an institution in Chicago and throughout Illinois, and he will bring our clients a level of knowledge and expertise that is unmatched in the field," said Mercury managing partner Kieran Mahoney. Jones Jr. joins a stable of high profile ex-pols -- former California state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D), former Missouri senator Jim Talent (R) among others -- who have joined Mercury in recent years.
Say What?: "It's opinion journalism masquerading as news." -- White House communications director Anita Dunn on the Fox News Channel.
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