Green Room

Pres. Obama’s historic speech to somebody, Pt. 2

posted at 10:37 am on September 10, 2009 by

Let’s briefly revisit the point of Pres. Obama’s speech on healthcare reform to a joint session of Congress last night.

Yesterday, in asking who the audience was for this speech, I noted that “the self-selected audience for the speech will likely skew in favor of Obama, something to remember if the establishment media does a poll of people who watched the speech.” There was nothing oracular about this prediction. As Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal noted before the speech: (1) instant response polls measure only speech-watchers; (2) the audience is usually skewed toward the President’s fans; (3) instant reactions tend to fade; and (4) some pollsters have reservations about instant reaction polls in general.

Sure enough, CNN did a flash poll showing that ObamaCare a 14-point gain among speech-watchers. Buried at the end of the story is the fact that the sample of speech-watchers in the poll was 45% Democratic and 18% Republican. For comparison, consider that the most recent Gallup survey of party ID among adults had 35% of Americans as Democrats and 28% as Republicans. A 14-point swing among a sample that skewed to the left is not surprising. Regular tracking polls are unlikely to show anything near it.

It should be fair to presume that the White House knows what Blumenthal (and any other respectable pollster) knew. Thus, it is notable that Pres. Obama delivered what Larry Sabato rightly characterized as a “tough, partisan speech.” Things have been going so badly for Obama and ObamaCare in recent weeks that he was beginning to lose support on the left. Obama apparently decided he needed to pump up his flagging base, and knew that is who would be tuned in last night.

Indeed, Pres. Obama — for all of his attacks on the GOP — undoubtedly knows that the real obstacle to taking over the US healthcare stystem is disunity within the Democratic ranks. Sabato makes the good point that “[i]f Obama can stoke congressional Democrats’ hatred of Republicans, Democrats will be less likely to split and hand the GOP a victory.” By that low bar, Obama’s speech must be deemed a tactical success, albeit a temporary one.

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So .. the whole point of the speech was to keep the Republicans from peeling off enough Democrats to implement something without the public option?

And Obama thought giving a tough partisan speech that further hardened the resolve of his opponents and had nothing that appealed to the middle.. this mess was worthwhile .. why?

I’m still concerned that we’re not seeing the endgame and may miss something important in all the smoke.


acat on September 10, 2009 at 10:59 AM