The political world watched the proceedings at Blair House looking for theatre: instead, a policy fight broke out. This time, both sides came armored, and there was no referee. It was a wash -- and the tie goes to the Republicans.

The key question on the table was not whether Democrats and Republicans could come up with ways to compromise; it was whether the White House could move public opinion in a way that helps Nancy Pelosi get the votes she needs to pass the Senate bill in the House. That's unlikely.

Dick Durbin, the Senate's number two, even made a point of hinting to reporters midway through that the Senate was ready to pass health care legislation under reconciliation rules, which avoids the 60-vote threshold.

Indeed, Republicans were successful when the focus of the debate was on process -- the details of the deals that Democrats and the White House struck with key states and the (seeming) lack of transparency. The Democrats have an answer to this: if you want to find a pure debate on a pure bill, you'll have to look to...another universe entirely, because this is how legislation gets done.

More, from my column at CBSNews.com

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.