That's what the White House--or, more accurately, Democratic pollster/strategist Stan Greenberg--told House Democrats last night: the party will be much better off in November if health care reform passes.
Greenberg and David Simas, an assistant to David Axelrod, led House Dems through a PowerPoint presentation on health care talking points last night and drove the point home, Fox's Major Garrett reports:
According to two Democrats who sat through the presentation, Greenberg warned lawmakers rank-and-file Democratic voters will be demoralized if health care fails. That sour mood would likely result in lower-than-expected turnout. Greenberg warned Democrats that an energized Republican base, a virtual certainty this cycle, combined with a sullen Democratic base could cost Democrats even more seats than currently projected.
President Obama has made this point to Democrats before, telling them frankly that if health reform doesn't pass, liberals and conservatives within his caucus are equally sunk.
Polling bears it out. While support for the health care plans being talked about now--phrased differently by different pollsters--hovers around 48% opposition and 44% support, polls show health care as a top priority for Americans: a recent AP/GfK poll showed 73% of respondents listing health care as an extremely or very important issue they're facing.
And health reform is popular among Democrats: 86% of Democrats supported "the proposed changes to the health care system being proposed by the Obama administration" in a recent Economist/YouGov poll.
It stands to reason that Greenberg, and Obama, are right: if Democrats want their voters energized in November--rather than hanging their heads in disappointment at their party's archetypal inability to pull together and advance an agenda--then health reform needs to pass for morale's sake.