Dems retreat on health care cost pitch

by
August 20, 2010

By Ben Smith, Politico

Key White House allies are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and deficit, and instead stressing a promise to “improve it.”

The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by FamiliesUSA — one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. The call was led by a staffer for the Herndon Alliance, which includes leading labor groups and other health care allies. It was based on polling from three top Democratic pollsters, John Anzalone, Celinda Lake, and Stan Greenberg

The confidential presentation, available in full here and provided to POLITICO by a source on the call, suggests that Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage, as its benefits became clear and rhetoric cooled. Instead, the presentation is designed to win over a skeptical public, and to defend the legislation — and in particular the individual mandate — from a push for repeal.

The presentation concedes that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college educated women, and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan. Indeed, it stresses repeatedly, many are unaware that the legislation has passed, an astonishing shortcoming in the White House’s all-out communications effort.

“Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to [move] voters’ opinions about the law,” says one slide. “Women in particular are concerned that health care law will mean less provider availbality – scarcity an issue.”

The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House’s first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.

“Many don’t believe health care reform will help the economy,” says one slide.

The presentation’s final page of “Don’ts” counsels against claiming “the law will reduce costs and deficit.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0810/41271.html#ixzz0x9gHA2P2

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