Reform is not without political jeopardy
“This is what change looks like,” said President Obama on the Sunday night the House passed the bill.
And so it does. The historic vote on March 22 in the House of Representatives, passing the Senate version of health care reform, has impact on many levels, including the Presidency of Barack Obama and the Colorado Senate race. There were many who voted for Obama in November 2008 who indeed were wondering if he was truly the visionary leader for which we had hoped. The last month when the President knocked heads of members of his own party and hit the campaign trail on behalf of reform, he finally took complete ownership of the issue and gambled his legacy and power.
The political equation shifts again as the President gets his mojo back. With a year of the administration’s failure to debate or fight back against the tea partyers, the Republican fear mongering and name calling, the win of Republican Scott Brown in a Democratic Massachusetts, even the most ardent supporters of the President wondered if indeed he could not govern.
He was perceived as likeable but weak, well-intentioned, but impotent.
What was once considered his greatest asset, his ability to bring complex issues to the public, had become his greatest failure. He had not conveyed what health care had meant for even those who had insurance through their employers, the moral imperative of extending access to health insurance to those cut out of the system, or the assurance that it would not bankrupt the country.
Furthermore, the administration had failed to make a strong case for change to the majority who already had insurance. They could have done it earlier by dramatizing the insurance companies as the villains.
That changed last month when the insurance companies committed a strategic error. They hiked their rates far and above the zero inflation and gave the President the indisputable justification to make them the villains that harmed more than just the 32 million to whom they had refused access.
In Colorado on the Democratic side, the Senate primary will be the focus. When the President looks strong, so do his allies, including Sen. Michael Bennet. Since November, Andrew Romanoff’s campaign strategy against Bennet has been to run against Obama power. He had been riding the disgust with Washington’s broken politics and the out of state PAC money needed to run an $8 million statewide campaign. He was taking advantage of Obama’s perceived weakness.
In recent newletters Romanoff referred to “machine politics,” which was a thinly veiled attack on Organizing for America, Obama’s five-person staffed coordinators in Colorado, campaigning on behalf of Bennet. Careful. If he wins the primary, he may need OFA’s help and every penny he can assemble.
On the Republican side, the right wing has been handed a more sharply outlined target they can use to rally their base and the teapartyers’ favored candidate, Ken Buck will give Jane Norton, the Republican establishment candidate, an even stronger challenge.
For a summary of the new health care reform law and discussion of mandates, see http://www.mufticforum.com
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