Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 10, 2009

LIKING WHAT THEY SAW.... President Obama had more than one audience last night. He was certainly trying to encourage the lawmakers sitting in front of him to act on his vision of health care reform. But just as important, if not more so, were the Americans watching at home. The more the public supports reform, the more politicians are likely to deliver.

So, did the president connect? We'll know more in the coming days -- the speech only ended 12 hours ago -- but for now, the early evidence seems encouraging for the White House. A CNN poll suggests the speech was a winner.

Two out of three Americans who watched President Barack Obama's health care reform speech Wednesday night favor his health care plans -- a 14-point gain among speech-watchers, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national poll of people who tuned into Obama's address Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress.

Sixty-seven percent of people questioned in the survey say the support Obama's health care reform proposals that the president outlined in his address, with 29 percent opposed.... About one in seven people who watched the speech changed their minds on Obama's health care plan. "Going into the speech, a bare majority of his audience -- 53 percent -- favored his proposals. Immediately after the speech, that figure rose to 67 percent," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.... Seven in 10 say that Obama's policies will move the country in the right direction, up 10 points from before the speech.

The CNN poll's sample had a Democratic tilt, so the overall results should probably be taken with a grain of salt. That said, even with a Dem edge in the sample, respondents' reactions shifted in a positive direction, which is what reformers hoped to see.

Democracy Corps, meanwhile, hosted a focus-group session last night, with "independent and weak partisan" participants. Those viewers were impressed, too.

With his speech before Congress and the nation tonight, Barack Obama was effective in cutting through the misinformation and partisan bickering over health care and reaching swing voters, many of whom entered the evening harboring real skepticism about his plan. Obama succeeded in reassuring voters of all political stripes on some of their biggest concerns about reform while also energizing supporters and avoiding the kind of polarization that could drive away independents and Republicans. Moreover, the reaction of Republicans in the audience, including the heckling of the president by Rep. Joe Wilson, generated a strong backlash among focus group participants who expressed deep frustration with Republicans for putting partisan politics ahead of solving the nations' problems.

Support for Obama's proposal jumped 20 points, and respondents were far less likely to believe conservative complaints about reform after hearing the address. What's more, this focus group found that the president saw a big gain on the "on your side" question.

We'll have to wait to see if these numbers hold up, and it's likely that conservatives will try to quickly quash any post-speech bump. In some ways, that's what makes Joe Wilson's outburst even more of a problem for the GOP -- they're having to criticize Wilson's buffoonery when they want to be criticizing the president.

Steve Benen 9:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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How many people watched it?

Posted by: Rick on September 10, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

The CNN poll's sample had a Democratic tilt

Meanwhile CNN and it's Opinion Research polls have a Republican tilt, so that's a wash. Obama's biggest challenge will be offsetting the upcoming lies. On the Today Show this morning, we already saw the common pattern where they first interview a Dem (Biden) who says absolutely nothing of value, followed by the Rep (McCain) who offers lies and distortions unchallenged. For example, Obama's program would only reduce the number of uninsured from 47 million to 30 million. Based on what? It will make the deficit go up. No explanation offered or requested by Lauer.

Posted by: Danp on September 10, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'll be interested in seeing the ultimate effect of the Joe Wilson tantrum. On the one hand, the media is focused on that and not specifics of the plan. That's probably bad. On the other, the Republicans are focused on distancing themselves from (too public) obnoxious behavior, rather than spewing lies about the plan. That's probably good.

Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on September 10, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone poll the Democrats in the Senate? None of this matters unless they're moved.

Posted by: Comrade Jake on September 10, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of buffoons. Michelle Bachmann was on the local right-wing radio show this morning saying that Obama totally failed. According to Ms. B, the Republican plan (apparently, eliminating employer based health care, having individuals by health insurance themselves and writing it all of on their taxes) is the only sensible way to go. Then she repeated the lies of the last month.

Crikey.

Posted by: Gridlock on September 10, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Joe Wilson 38
Obama Delivers 26

Not good, and shows how "even we" are corrupted by the MSM/Drudge/kitsch mentality of the shiny object, the accident or jackass seen on youboob etc.

Let's make up for it here, please.

Posted by: Neil B ♪ ♫ on September 10, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Bachmann: Sure, write off health insurance on your taxes. Then, the *more* money you make, the bigger your net deduction can be (since presumed to be a deduction, not actual "credit") and lower income folks have no benefit at all. A feature not a bug! Ironically though, I really don't think going through employers is a good idea - that makes it harder to go between them and if you're unemployed, varies rates between individuals, etc.

She should change her name to Beckmoron.

BTW, still no good scoop on those papers the Repiglies held up. Sorry exlibra, I don't think it was just to fan with, unless you meant "fan flames" of discord. They must have been some protest message, they all looked alike. I can't believe it's not out there in gory detail.

Posted by: Neil B ☺ on September 10, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

BTW, still no good scoop on those papers the Repiglies held up

Obama was expected to say that Republicans brought no ideas to the table, and one said he intended to bring a copy of the bill they had proposed, which was mostly tax cuts, tort reform, etc. I suspect that is what they were holding up.

Posted by: Danp on September 10, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

that polling 'edge,' according to cnn, was in fact, 45% self-identified democrats versus 18% self-identified rethugs. obviously, this tilts the results significantly.

Posted by: sadly on September 10, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, Steve: Conservatives are quickly quashing away--see my post above about Matt Lauer's 'interview' with McCain on this morning's "Today Show".

That's the thanks you get for crediting a republican over and over. Will Obama ever stop lending them so much credence when it's so obvious they are assholes?

This continued 'Post-Paritisianship' posturing is so sickening in part because it's so obviously not a reality. It's one thing to extend a hand, but when it's slapped repeatedly and when attempts are made to literally cut it off, then it's time to reign it in.

Does this strategy of "kill em with kindness and compliments" work? No. Because it seems to only embolden them, not kill or maim in the slightest.

It's boomeranging and it needs to stop.

Posted by: The quashing has begun in full force on September 10, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Danp: I'll be interested in seeing the ultimate effect of the Joe Wilson tantrum. On the one hand, the media is focused on that and not specifics of the plan. That's probably bad. On the other, the Republicans are focused on distancing themselves from (too public) obnoxious behavior, rather than spewing lies about the plan. That's probably good.

Addison Graves Wilson's outburst last night is a godsend to reformers. For change we can believe in, we ought to pile on. Make the Republicans defend themselves against our outrage — at least ours is legitimate. Every minute Republicans spend having to defend their own louts is a minute they can't attack health reform.

What's more is that outrage against Wilson resonates with voters, as Steve's post mentions: Moreover, the reaction of Republicans in the audience, including the heckling of the president by Rep. Joe Wilson, generated a strong backlash among focus group participants who expressed deep frustration with Republicans for putting partisan politics ahead of solving the nations' problems.

This is the best opportunity we've had in quite awhile to score some political points. Let's make them. By attacking Wilson we help clear the political path for our policy goals.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on September 10, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Joe Wilson: GOP Poster Child

Posted by: bdop4 on September 10, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

I'm envisioning a MoveOn ad. . .

"Does party affiliation matter? What does it mean to be a Republican today? Does it mean this? [clip of Wilson shouting 'you lie' with text box proving he was wrong] Or maybe this? [one of Palin's dumbest quotes from the campaign with text box of her shopping spree]? Is this what Republicans stand for? [Duvall, bragging about his affair with a lobbyist] Are these their values? [Sanford] Maybe this is the face of today's Republican Party? [crowd berating woman in wheelchair]? The answer: its all of the above. What party you support says a lot about you. Tell the world you support hope over hate and hypocricy, ideas over idealogues and incivility. Support Democrats in 2010."

Posted by: zeitgeist on September 10, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry but, everyone on this comment meme that did not start off by saying "The President hit it out of the park last night..." is not paying attention or has no ear for what is going on in this debate.

Will it make the difference? Maybe, maybe not. I think it will. But, please understand, President Obama did as much (I am tempted to say 'he did more...') in that speech as was humanly possible and, I believe, more than any other President we have ever had would have been able to do in the same situation.

Posted by: robert on September 10, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Surfin' the web this AM makes me wonder where we are. My understanding is that 3 committees in the House and 2 in the Senate have their ideas of what should be considered as a "Healtcare Plan" for the US. These ideas are to be melded into the final Bill for the President's signature. This is supposedly a Congressional effort that will meet the President' OUTLINE of what he WILL sign. Yet, we have all these outbursts about Obama's failure to offer DETAILS. I think that a lot of the Public doesn't understand this process. Am I right?

Posted by: fillphil on September 10, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK
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