I have always believed that the key to getting health care reform through Congress lay with President Barack Obama, not with Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Obama had to win back public support for health care reform so wavering Democrats wouldn’t feel they were risking their jobs by voting for it. Well, it may be too late, and those of us who favor reform may have to rely on Pelosi’s skill to get this through, but there are signs that Obama’s health care summit has changed some minds.
Citing polls taking from early November through February 23-24, Nate Silver has remarked that the public’s opinion of health care reform has remained fairly constant – and fairly constant in opposition. But in the first poll conducted after the summit on February 25, Ipsos/McClatchy found that those who favor versus those who oppose “the health care reform proposals presently being discussed,” went from 37 to 51 percent in late January to 41 to 47 percent. That's an eight point swing.
More significant still, while Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the proposals by 75 to 18 percent, Independents favor them by 43 to 41 percent. And among the 47 percent who oppose the reform proposals 37 percent do so because they “don’t go far enough.” That suggests that many of the 24 percent of Democrats and some of the independents who oppose the proposals do so because they don’t go far enough. These respondents would presumably be open to persuasion, and could create a solid majority in favor of health care reform.
So the president’s effort to dramatize the issue has had results, and the White House and the somnolent Democratic National Committee need to mount a vociferous public campaign on behalf of health care reform. That will at the least make Pelosi and Reid’s job easier.