Jonathan Cohn

Senior Editor

One reason this country has never mustered the will to enact universal health care is that most Americans have felt their own insurance arrangements were adequate. They sympathized with the plight of people who couldn't pay their medical bills, but couldn't imagine themselves in that situation. A new report released Wednesday suggests that may be changing. The report, called "Losing Ground," comes from the Commonwealth Fund (which has underwritten some of my own research) and is based upon survey data the Fund has collected over the last few years.

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It's a typical summer night in the Cohn household, which means the Red Sox are on television. McCain has been advertising pretty heavily on the New England Sports Network (NESN) for the last few weeks, usually with some version of his "celebrity" ad, presumably to reach the heavy New Hampshire audience. Obama, meanwhile, has run far fewer spots--and what I've seen has been relatively tepid. (It's an unscientific sample, yes, but I catch most of the games, so I have at least some basis for making this judgment.) Tonight, though, the NESN broadcast included an Obama contrast ad.

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Barack Obama is getting feisty. On Monday, as Karen Tumulty reports, he went after John McCain hard on the economy: Where he would rarely even mention McCain in the past, Obama now openly mocks him. McCain boasts of putting country first, Obama said, "but I have to say, it's not an example of putting country first when you say George Bush's economic policies have shown 'great progress.' " As for McCain's contention that Obama would be an "economic disaster," Obama retorted, "Mr. McCain, let me explain to you. The economic disaster is happening right now.

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Just Words?

The typical voter may not pay much attention to partly platforms these days, but activists certainly do. And at the Democratic Party platform hearings held in Pittsburgh just over a week ago, advocates for health care reform made their presence felt, proposing--and obtaining--revisions to the platform proposed by Obama and the party. The final platform proposal, which the full party will consider in Denver next week, now states that “every American man, woman, and child [should] be guaranteed affordable, comprehensive health care. ...

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Well-connected Washington insider Steve Clemons has already reported that signs point to Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate. Now comes this tidbit, coutesy of the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray: Tony Blinken, the Biden foreign policy adviser who accompanied Obama on his overseas trip, left Washington to go on vacation late last week. Destination? Hawaii.  The timing of Blinken's trip isn't clear. Maybe he got there after Obama left. Or maybe he really was on vacation.

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No, I don't have any new information. As far as I know, Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed may never have been a serious contender to join Barack Obama on the ticket--in no small part because Reed has said, repeatedly and with apparent sincerity, that he has no interest in the job. We certainly aren't hearing about Reed the way we are hearing about Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, and Tim Kaine.

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Insiders

Earlier this summer, when the Obama campaign announced that Jason Furman was joining its staff as director of economic policy, the storyline seemed to write itself: Centrist adviser will pull Obama to the right. Furman had first made a name for himself as a wonky twentysomething wunderkind in the later years of the Clinton administration--a period when, to the consternation of many liberals, Clinton emphasized balanced budgets, free trade, and welfare reform.

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Barack Obama could surely do worse than to tap Evan Bayh as his running mate. He is an honorable and highly experienced public official, having served both as governor and U.S. senator from his home state of indiana. And, as my colleague Nate Silver has noted, his voting record suggests he's actually a bit more progressive than his centrist image suggests. But does that make Bayh the best choice for the job?

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Does this new new ad for Barack Obama, which his campaign calls "embrace," work?  The crisply produced spot certainly does a nice job of tying John McCain to Bush, with snapshot after snapshot of the two embracing. (Thus, the title.) It also exposes the hypocrisy inherent McCain's ads, which mock Obama for his celebrity. Whatever McCain's relationship with the press today, he has a long history as a media darling. And that history has played no small role in his career trajectory. On the other hand, I wonder whether showing McCain on Leno, Letterman, etc., is all that damaging.

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By all accounts, Barack Obama is quite far along in his deliberations over a running mate. If he hasn't already made his choice, it's down to a tiny handfull of people. The time for suggesting new names, in other words, has long since passed. But with Michigan and its pivotal role in the election on my mind, I can't help but throw out another possibility, one so seemingly ideal I'm surprised we haven't heard more about him already: Senator Carl Levin. What woud Levin bring to the ticket?

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