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February 25, 2010

Conservative Pundits: Obama and Democrats Seem to Have Stepped Into a Trap of Their Own Devising

Yuval Levin of NRO:

morning’s session suggests three broad points. First, the Democrats appear to have no particular purpose in mind for this event. They’re not driving anywhere, or making a clear individual case, while Republicans clearly want to get across the point that we should scrap the current bills and start over in pursuit of a few incremental steps. The Democrats may have thought that simply putting the spotlight on Republicans when the subject is health carewould make the GOP look bad. But Republicans so far seem prepared enough and focused enough to avoid that, and to make the Democrats look rather aimless by comparison.

...

Third, an important part of the Democrats’ problem is that Obama himself is their only star, and this format is not working for him. He certainly seems engaged and well informed (even given a few misstatements of fact, at least one of which John Kyl made very clear.) But he doesn’t seem like the President of the United States—more like a slightly cranky committee chairman or a patronizing professor who thinks that saying something is “a legitimate argument” is a way to avoid having an argument. He is diminished by the circumstances, he’s cranky and prickly when challenged, and he’s got no one to help him. The other Democrats around the table have been worse than unimpressive. The Republicans seem genuinely well-prepared, seem to have thought through the question of who should speak about what rather carefully, and several of them have done quite a good job making their case against the Democrats’ approach. If we were to judge by debating points, Republicans certainly won the morning handily.

Jim Geraghty:

There are a lot of flaws in this health care bill, but I think one of the reasons it's polling badly - opposition between 46 and 56 percent, support between 31 and 41 - is because it represents a big and unknown change to a public that is wary, and particularly nervous about big, sweeping changes during a time of economic uncertainty. As I've noted, Obama and the Democrats made a lot of similarly grandiose promises about the stimulus that haven't panned out. Their credibility is pretty damaged right now.

The Democrats have a much, much tougher job today: They have to win over skeptics. The Republicans just have to keep pointing out all the flaws and ways it won't work — cost, limitation of choice, overblown promises of cost containment, tax hikes, the likelihood of higher premiums, etc.; they haven't even gotten to abortion or illegal immigrant coverage yet — and give the skeptics enough reason to say, "yeah, this just isn't going to work; big, expensive government programs never live up to their promises."

The Democrats are offering a lot of anecdotes about Baby Jesus, Steny Hoyer's answering machine, and the teeth of the dead. Obama is at his least persuasive; he keeps ruling GOP arguments out of bounds for one reason or another - don't hold up a copy of the bill, don't cite Washington because people are angry at Washington right now, don't ask for equal time, don't focus on where we disagree, don't remind me of what I said as candidate. I don't think that transforms the skeptics into supporters.

I don't trust myself to judge, really, because I thought McCain and Palin kicked ass in each of their debates with Captain Wonderful and Simple Joe; the public didn't seem to disagree. But it does seem to me the Republicans are getting the best of it, since the Democratic talking points are old and busted (the media parrots them all the time) and the Republican ideas haven't gotten nearly as much air time.

Another Positive Assessment: Phil Klein:

Having watched every minute of the health care summit, I have to disagree with my co-bloggers. I think that Republicans have been, generally speaking, handling this very well. I've been very critical of the GOP throughout the health care debate, but Republicans have consistently made fact-based arguments on why President Obama's plan will make our health care system's problems worse, presented other ideas, and made the case for scrapping the current highly unpopular bill and taking a different approach. Paul Ryan just completely eviscerated the Democratic claims that the Senate health care bill would contain costs and reduce deficits, outlining the accounting gimmicks that Democrats used, as well as the actuarial study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found the Senate bill would actually increase health care spending. Chuck Grassley, while not the whiz kid that Ryan is, followed up by noting a CBO report that found Democrats cannot double-count the savings from the Medicare cuts to claim it will both reduce deficits and extend the solvency of the program both at the same time.



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