Why Obama Can't Land the Deal

The President's numbers on health care reform take a dive, and columnists wonder if he's the right salesman for the job.

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Is the president the right salesman to pass health care reform? Here are five reasons pundit doubt his ability to land the deal:

  • Obama Keeps Trying to Scare Voters, argues Karl Rove. He says "Mr. Obama is dropping his high-minded rhetoric and instead trying to scare voters." He cites a Fox News poll that found that the 84% of Americans with health insurance are satisfied with their coverage, and that voters prefer a private insurance plan to a government one 2-1. And Rove says the President's fearmongering makes him look "desperate at a time when his proposals are looking increasingly too expensive for Americans to accept."
  • He Doesn't Know How to Legislate, says Michael Barone. "Inspiration is one thing," Barone says, "persuasion another." Barone argues that Obama's inexperience as a legislator is starting to show. He takes jabs not just at Obama's pitch on health care, but on his handling of the stimulus and the cap and trade bill as well:

    "On the major legislation considered this year -- the stimulus, cap-and-trade, health care -- the Obama White House has done little or nothing to set down markers, to provide guidance, to establish boundaries and no-go areas."

  • He Avoids Making Decisions, writes Karen Tumulty. She says "the sheer complexity of health care has so far defied both his ability to explain and his power to fix." Tumulty cites a new Time Magazine poll that finds that the same percentage of Americans approve of Obama's handling of health care as disapprove. Why? According to Tumulty, it's because "most of the pivotal questions -- particularly about money and who will lose it -- remain unresolved" by the president. She says Obama will have to start making decisions soon, because "what looked like shrewd politics early in the process is increasingly being viewed on Capitol Hill as a failure to lead."
  • Obama Can't Explain Clearly, says Tina Brown. She's worried that Obama isn't able to explain his health care plan to the American people, and she suggests that he consider asking the godfather of triangulation for some help. "If Obama has lost his customary ability to synthesize, perhaps he should turn for help to that great ol' explainer William Jefferson Clinton," she writes.
  • He Hasn't Focused on a Single Plan, writes Nate Silver in a long and detailed post. Voters, he says, "need to hear clearly what changes health care reform will bring." He says it's more important just to get a single idea on the table than to fret about whether it's the perfect plan. Since everyone agrees the status quo has to change, he says, "the best thing that health care has going for it is that it doesn't necessarily need to be all that popular to pass."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.