When (if?) health care reform passes both the House and Senate, will it help airlift the president's approval rating out of the 40s? I say yes. My colleagues Dan and Megan have expressed doubts. Here's why I haven't changed my mind.
From Greg Sargent, this is a really important observation:
The CBS poll finds that Obama's approval rating on health care has dipped to 36%. But the poll also asked whether people think the reform proposal, in various ways, goes too far, is about right, or doesn't go far enough:
In every one of those polled -- covering Americans, controlling costs, and regulating insurance companies -- more think the bill doesn't go far enough.
Now, I think it's misguided to add up the "Not far enough" and "About right" groups to approximate the bill's actual approval. Some of those "Not far enough"-ers under the Controlling Costs category could be conservatives who blame Medicare for strangling government spending. Or some of those NFE-ers under the Regulating health insurance companies category could conceivably be Republicans who want their health insurance improved but also hate the idea of paying for 30 million additional Americans' health care. But I do think there is a lot of liberal support for Obama-esque health care reform hiding in the "Not far enough" group. And I think that with a real life bill on the president's desk, some of these critics from the left will eventually admit that something is better than nothing.
Furthermore, my sense is also that this health care poll is a microcosm of Obama's overall approval rating. Obviously, there are a lot of Americans who think Obama is driving the country off a cliff. But I think there are also a lot of moderates and liberals who think he's generally driving in the right direction, but not fast enough. I don't know enough Americans to know that this is true, but the sense I get from a lot of liberal blogs I read is that the case against Obama is a phalanx. From the right, you get anger about radicalism. From the left, you get disappointment about incrementalism.
That doesn't mean that opposition to Obama is somehow less serious just because it includes people who would probably vote Democratic anyway. After all, disappointment with your party can be the difference between 100,000 Democrats going to voting booths versus staying home. It just means that when we cite the numbers against the health care bill, and against the president, it doesn't make sense to talk about the opposition as a homogeneous bloc.