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24
Fred Heineman’s death takes us back to the Republican tidal year of 1994, when a titanic health-care battle led to a Democratic debacle so huge Heineman temporarily unseated David Price.
 
The big difference this year: Obama succeeded where the Clintons failed.
 
It takes three ingredients to make an electoral revolution: (1) One side is energized (2) the middle is outraged and (3) the other side is demoralized.
 
All three elements came together in 1994.
 
Democrats were so demoralized – and stayed home so much – that Heineman won even though he got fewer votes than Price got in 1992.
 
But, thanks to Obama’s health-care victory, Democrats who were demoralized a week ago are energized today.
 
Republicans, of course, are still energized – maybe even more so.
 
And the middle? We’ll see. Obama’s political challenge now is to sell them on reform.

 

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23
There hasn’t been a scene like it since LBJ in 1965: Democratic congressional leaders beaming and clapping as a Democratic President signs a big expansion of the social safety net.
 
The question is whether today’s White House ceremony celebrating health-care reform was the last gasp of the Great Society – or a reprise of Happy Days Are Here Again.
 
But, for now, for Democrats, there’s nothing like a win.
 
The Democratic wet dream is that Republicans overplayed their hand. That Americans will embrace the reforms, recoil against the opponents’ vitriol and turn against sour, hard-faced Washington Republicans.
 
Inevitably, reform will get a bounce in the polls. Inevitably, the Republicans’ repeal mania will fade.
 
Then what?
 
Politically, the best move for Obama and Democrats now is against Wall Street: Take the financial-regulatory bill, turn Obama’s rhetorical gifts on full-blast again and blame Wall Street and big bankers for the economic mess.
 
Let Republicans defend that target!
 
That’s how Democrats might salvage their congressional majorities in November.

 

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22
People always say they want politicians to do what’s right, even if it’s unpopular. Of course, they mean: unpopular with somebody else.
 
Still, by that standard, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi showed a rare level of political guts and perseverance in pushing through health-care reform.
 
Remember two months ago? Scott Brown had just won in Massachusetts. Health-care reform was declared dead.
 
But Obama and Pelosi pushed ahead – despite Republican obstructionism, Tea Party hysteria and a flood of lies, deception and misrepresentation.
 
Now, supposedly, will come the Great Reckoning in November. But I remain skeptical that the November election will be about what happened yesterday. I doubt Democrats will lose much more ground than they would anyway in the natural cycle of politics.
 
Plus, Obama and Pelosi have given Democrats a big political win. It contains specific changes that people will like. They gave Democrats something concrete to campaign on.
 
They did what they thought was right. Even if it was unpopular with some people.

 

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17
A reader commented that it would be “whining” for Obama to blame Republicans for the country’s economic mess, as I had suggested.
 
Question: Was Ronald Reagan “whining” all those years?
 
Through the 1984 campaign – four years after he unseated Jimmy Carter – Reagan’s basic message was that he inherited a mess, it would take time to dig out and “why would we want to go back?”
 
If that’s whining, Obama needs to do more of it.
 
If I was in charge of message at the White House, every speech would start with that whine.
 

 

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17
Public Policy Polling says that – on health care reform – Democratic Congressmen Bob Etheridge and Health Shuler “both have to decide between voting the way that folks in their party would like them to, or voting the way voters in their district as a whole would like them to.”
 
But I’m not convinced that voting for reform will hurt them this fall.
 
For one thing, PPP also finds that, nationally, support for reform is rising.
 
For another, the picture is likely to be very different in November.
 
People don’t like reform now – in part – because they don’t know what’s in it. Fear trumps facts.
 
If a bill passes, Democrats will be able to talk about specific benefits.
 
If it doesn’t pass, they’ll be able to blame Republicans for everything wrong in health care.
 
Regardless, once the fight is over, Republicans will face the same challenge Democrats face now: how to get people interested in health-care reform when they’re mostly worried about the economy.
 
Health-care reform may be old news in November.

 

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16
Karl Rove is still playing mind games with Democrats.
 
Pay no attention.
 
Rove claims that, if Congress passes health-care reform, Democrats will lose Congress.
 
Bunk.
 
In truth, Rove fears that Democrats will pass reform, Obama will have a victory and Democrats will have something positive to run on this fall.
 
If the bill passes, nobody will know whether it made health-care better or worse.
 
But Democrats will get a boost of confidence. And Obama will be able to focus on fixing the economy – and explaining how Republicans got us in this mess.
 

 

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08
The Tea Party crowd is in a frenzy over rising deficits and the national debt.
 
In Asheville Friday, Republican candidates fell all over themselves at a Tea Party meeting that featured a clock tracking the debt.
 
Do these people have any memory cells whatsoever?
 
Obviously not, so let me remind them that, just 10 years ago, the budget deficit was heading toward zero. The debate in Washington was whether to spend the coming surplus on Social Security, tax cuts or paying down the debt.
 
That’s right: paying down the debt.
 
That was during the administration of a Democratic President named Bill Clinton. Before George Bush and a Republican Congress wrecked the budget.
 
And the Tea Party wants to return that crowd to power?
 

 

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04
A supporter of the new Wake school board held up a sign at this week’s hearing: “Elections matter.”
 
At the health-care summit President Obama told John McCain: “The election is over.”
 
They’re right. And Obama should ram through health-care reform just like the new school board majority is ramming through its new policies.
 
Obama needs to get something – anything – passed. Then move on to jobs and the economy.
 
And he’s better off being strong and wrong than weak and right.
 
Few people will understand what’s in his bill – or whether it makes things better or worse.
 
The Republicans will have a devil of a time overturning it, no matter how November turns out.
 
Similarly, in WakeCounty, there’s talk of a recall election of the new majority.
 
Two problems: How do you do a recall in North Carolina? And what makes you think it would turn out any different?

 

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25
Up in Washington last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference every time Scott Brown’s name was mentioned the conservative hordes let out a bellow of approval – but, then, two days later Brown voted with the Democrats in the Senate to end a filibuster against President Obama’s latest ‘Stimulus Bill’ and Democratic leader Harry Reid purred, “I believe this is the beginning of a new day in the Senate.”
 
Scott Brown’s election has been heralded as a conservative triumph but, in fact, it’s not. Instead, Brown’s win is a triumph of Washington Republican pragmatism. The Washington Republicans – whose goal is Republican majorities regardless of ideological persuasion – have succeeded in electing a crucial 41st Republican vote and, in the process, probably dealt a fatal blow to Obamacare. So, they can argue, credibly, that even if Brown strays on Obama’s Stimulus Bills the game was worth the candle and adding up the pro’s and con’s, no matter how Brown votes, Senate Republicans come out way ahead.
 
But, at the same time, they have created – for themselves – a pair of problems:   First, they didn’t elect Brown by saying he was another Olympia Snow  –  instead they waved flags of ideological purity all over the Internet persuading Republican faithful across the nation to pour millions into Brown’s campaign.
 
Result:  The Washington Republican Establishment fooled the core activists in their own party, once again, and a lot of people who oppose Obama’s Stimulus Bills, abortion, and gay marriage contributed to a Massachusetts Republican who supports all three – which leads straight to the second problem.
 
The Independents who voted Republican last fall didn’t do it out of love for the Grand Old Party – they did it because they’re mad as blazes at President Obama.  They want changes in Washington. A lot of changes – which Senator Brown voting with Democrats won’t deliver.
 
It sure looks like Independent voters are going to stick with Republicans through this fall election but if they wake up after the election to find Washington politics rolling along as usual – guess who they’re going be mad at next?
 
 

 

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25
President Obama may be setting up Republicans for a classic one-two punch.
 
First, the left jab: an open, public “discussion” where he challenges Republicans to put their ideas on the table. That’s what they said they wanted, isn’t it?
 
Then, the right uppercut: ramming a health-care bill through using something called “reconciliation.”
 
I don’t know what “reconciliation” means, but it is apparently a parliamentary term for “steamroller.”
 
Republicans will howl about the process. But who cares?
 
Obama needs a win – no matter how bloody. He needs to look strong. Then he can spend the rest of the year blaming Republicans for not doing more. And Republicans can blame him for doing too much.
 
And we’ll get a verdict in November.
 
Either way, Obama’s chances to pass a bill won’t get better.

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