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25
The media frenzy over the last month or so has been that Americans don’t support – or understand – President Obama’s health-care reforms.
 
Bad news for Barack, the media and the pundits proclaim.
 
In Washington this week, a local executive told me, she heard one of the media Big Feet pontificating about how Obama missed an opportunity in his Sunday talk-show blitz: He didn’t spell out one-two-three exactly what he wants in a reform bill.
 
I think the “experts” are missing something because of their own obsession with the minutiae of issues. And, yes, before somebody starts screaming, the minutiae of issues is important. But let me finish.
 
What’s more important in politics is trust.
 
If people trust a politician, they trust him or her on issues, even if they disagree on specifics.
 
A perfect example was Ronald Reagan. For eight years, I listened to Democrats express amazement that the American people loved Reagan even though polls showed they disagreed with his policies.
 
Same thing with Obama. So today’s New York Times poll shows that, yes, the public is wary of his policies on health care and Afghanistan. But his approval rating is 56 percent.
 
More important, the public trusts him more than it trusts the Republicans in Congress.
 
That’s what Obama was up to last Sunday – and in his continuing media blitz. It’s not so much about issues as it is about persuading Americans he is a leader they can trust to do his best to do the right thing.
 
Besides, health care really isn’t where Obama needs to worry long term. He’ll get a bill, and he’ll claim victory. But getting a victory in Afghanistan is much tougher and much riskier – for Obama’s future and for America’s.

 

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22
A Democratic friend who was in Washington recently reports that Republicans there are “giddy.” They’re convinced they have Obama and the Democrats on the run, certain they’re finally headed for a big election.
 
But they may have miscalculated. The election is next year, not this year.
 
And they may be overreaching. Especially if the face of the GOP remains Crazy Joe Wilson, John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh.
 
They’ve forgotten a couple of things from their last landslide in 1994. Which didn’t last all that long. Namely, they forgot: 
  • They had a positive message then, the Contract With America. Not just rage.
  • Clinton took a blow, but he was reelected.
  • Democrats learned a lesson and retooled themselves to win back Congress and the White House.
I will say this: Richard Burr has avoided most of these mistakes. He has a smile, not a frown. He doesn’t go in for the ranting, raving and razzing that makes his colleagues look unhinged.
 
The winds may be with the GOP next year, and Burr looks stronger than some Democrats think. But Republicans had best not get too giddy.
 

 

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21
Sometimes Democrats are too logical. They forget that communication is mostly emotional.
 
Like health care “death panels.” Democrats need to get off the defensive and turn the issue into political death for Republicans.
 
A Harvard Medical School study says 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have insurance.
 
People will gladly take reform – shoot, they’ll take government-run health care – if they think it’s the difference between life and death.
 
President Obama got close when he said people shouldn’t have to go broke because they get sick.
 
Democrats need to go farther: You shouldn’t have to get sick and die because you can’t afford insurance.

 

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16
Imagine that the shoe was on the other foot – or the shout came from the other side of the aisle.
 
Imagine this: President Bush gives a speech about reforming Social Security. He says we should adopt a partial privatization plan. And he vows that no older American will lose any of their Social Security as a result.
 
Imagine that, say, Mel Watt or G.K. Butterfield or Jim Clyburn – or any black congressman – shouts out: “You lie!”
 
Imagine what Fox News, Crazy Joe Wilson and Rush Limbaugh would say then.

 

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16
My son James has an intriguing theory about Barack Obama’s September Slumps.   Candidate Obama had one last year. John McCain’s choice of Sarah...

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15

Hardly a Democrat has a doubt the Internet has become a force majeure in politics; and if any Republican had any doubts take a look at what’s happened to Representative Joe Wilson.

Congressman Wilson was cruising to reelection in a Republican District when he called out, “You lie!” on national TV – then overnight a million dollars sailed through the ether and landed in his opponent’s inbox.
 
One day Wilson’s crusin,’ the next he’s in a fight for his political life.
 
The Democrats fully funded an entire Congressional Race – in a Republican District – overnight.
 
Then Wilson did his own Internet video and voilà – he raises a million too.
 
And consider this: 20,000 people just gave Wilson’s opponent a million dollars but that’s not the end of it. How many more millions will those same people give between now and the election? You can bet Wilson’s opponent will be emailing them every time another shoe drops – so it could be two, three or four million before all’s said and done.

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14
There’s plenty of hot news lately.
 
Iran’s close to building a bomb.
 
ACORN operatives got caught on film trying to figure out how to bring young girls from Honduras to Baltimore for what sounded a lot like a prostitution ring.
 
And the Republican National Committees are going all out to elect a Republican who’s for gay marriage to Congress in a Special Election in New York. (If you think that makes sense consider this – the district’s not in Greenwich Village it’s in the Adirondack Mountains and there are 60,000 more Republicans in it than Democrats.)
 
Closer to home Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s taking on Senator Richard Burr. Generally, things are looking up for Burr (except he’s got poll numbers worse than Elizabeth Dole’s). Burr’s lucky enough to be running in what’s beginning to look like a fine year for Republicans; after voting for the bailouts he may cruise to victory because folks are mad at Democrats.
 
But don’t underestimate Elaine Marshall: She lost in the Senate primary in 2002 – but her only problem was she didn’t have money and the Democrats will take care of that when they give Burr the Liddy Dole treatment.
 
Beyond that, the nutty President of Iran may be about to make us forget about health care and the economy. Wednesday the United States envoy to the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency announced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ‘is close to having the capability to produce a nuclear weapon.’  If he doesn’t fess-up and stop the UN’s going to whoop him with double, triple, super-sanctions. On top of the three sets of sanctions Ahmadinejad’s ignored.
 
Finally, Governor Perdue’s popularity is still at rock bottom. But she’s got a solution: She’s taking an $80,000 junket to China .

 

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11
Never underestimate a President who can talk eloquently about moral issues.
 
It’s easy to forget that. We haven’t had a President who could do it for 20 years – since Ronald Reagan left the White House.
 
The Bushes could hardly put together a coherent sentence. Yes, Bill Clinton could talk a blue streak. But moral issues, not so much.
 
With one speech – and a two-word outburst by Crazy Joe Wilson – President Obama neatly changed the health-care reform game. He took the initiative and put the Republicans on the defensive.
 
Of course, the Democrats in Congress are perfectly capable of squandering the lead Obama gave them.
 
But, as Carter said in his blog, you have to admire a politician who masters the bully pulpit the way Obama did.
 
Once again, the Republicans underestimated him – just as Democrats did Reagan.
 
Here’s hoping Wilson & Co. keep it up.
 

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03
One of the many brilliant (that means “Democratic”) readers of this blog has offered what could be a spot-on analysis of Obama’s new strategy on health care. I share it with you in full:
 
“He has leaned back and relaxed and let Mitch McConnell and the screaming chorus shout and work themselves into a lather over imaginary provisions of plans he will never offer. After playing rope a dope like Ali and letting the congressional Republicans demonstrate their utter partisanship and unwillingness to join in any health care reform, he will now bring forward a reasonable plan that he will say was what he and Olympia Snow were working on together from the start. Then the Republicans who jump him will be clearly labeled as obstructionists. It may not work but it's great strategy.”
 

 

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24
Bill Friday surprised me in our UNC-TV interview when he asked me about the most remarkable characters I’ve met in politics.
 
So I’ve given it more thought. I’ve come down to two people I met during Governor Hunt’s 1984 campaign against Jesse Helms.
 
At different times that year, our campaign was advised by two of the oddest characters in the history of American politics: James Carville and Dick Morris.
 
Carville, who was working on a Senate race in Texas, was unknown then. Will Marshall, our press secretary, had worked with him in a Senate race in Virginia the year before. Carville flew in to Raleigh a couple of times during the spring and met with us.
 
Spending time with Carville is like being thrown into a Mixmaster. He’s just as jerky, hyperactive, imaginative and funny as he is on TV. Except you can’t turn him off. You’re exhausted after a couple of hours.
 
In 1984, Morris was still – officially – a Democrat. He was brought in by the late David Sawyer, our media consultant, in October. We were desperate. Sawyer thought Morris might have some ideas. He had a good one: Attack Helms on abortion. Tell voters, especially women, that Helms opposed abortion even in cases of rape and incest. And would even outlaw birth control.
 
It was too radical for our campaign. Later, I found out from Carter that Morris was right. It was the one magic bullet that might have turned the campaign around. The Helms campaign always wondered why we backed off.
 
Everybody in our campaign loved Carville. Morris, not so much. After he left, one campaign aide said she felt like she needed a shower.
 

 

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