I've been on record for some time as believing that since healthcare reform emerged still standing even after the August hailstorm, the odds were good that it could pass this year in some reasonable form. So obviously I still think that. But I'd say the speech probably helped. It won't affect Republican votes much, but it will probably move public opinon a few notches and make it easier for centrist Dems to stick together and overcome a GOP filibuster. Basically, I'd say the odds of healthcare passing this year have gone up from 65% to about 75%.
I think [Obama is] anticipating that the Congressional Budget Office will continue to score legislation as increasing long-term budget deficits by an increasing amount each year. The President and his Budget Director will, I think, continue to assert that their “game changers” will reduce long-term budget deficits, despite providing no quantitative evidence to support this claim. This new Presidential language suggests that they will include additional language that requires actual spending cuts if (when) the game changers don’t work. If I’m right, it’s a transparent gimmick designed to try to get CBO to say the bills don’t increase the long-term budget deficit, without actually making any of the hard choices needed to do so. If you care about the deficit, keep a close eye on this element of the President’s proposal.
Personally, I sort of liked Rep Joe Wilson’s idea of introducing British-style heckling to the halls of congress; totally disrespectful and out of step with American tradition, true, but their tradition is better. Unfortunately, Wilson was also lying about the point at issue and will thereby set back the cause of heckling by decades.
Obama needed to do the precise opposite of what he's best at. He needed to bring health-care reform down to earth rather than launch it into orbit. He needed to make it seem less dramatic and unknown. He needed to cast it not as change, but as improvement. All of which he did.
Kristol denies there is a healthcare crisis:
The real “public option” is to scrap the current grandiose plans and to start over. There is no health care crisis, and doing no harm is far preferable to doing real damage to a good health care system.
I think Obama may have resumed a certain command over the debate. Because the contrast between him and the hucksters to whom the Republicans have ceded this debate, and the difference between the actual details of reform and whatever it is everyone has been talking about through August, is simply very difficult to ignore.
I've written critically of this notion that health care is a drama revolving around Obama. It's not. The Senate is the key entity here. No speech is going to have much effect -- it could make health care more popular, but centrist Senators were dragging their feet long before Obama's slide in public opinion. Fortunately, I also think that at the end of the day, even moderate Democrats will recognize their self-interest in passing something substantial.