The Democrats did not lose Congress in 1994 because they failed to pass health care reform. They lost Congress in 1994 because they failed to rally the public behind health care reform. Had Democrats successfully sold Clintoncare to the public and then passed it, their majorities might have been saved. But had Democrats gone ahead and passed it anyway, under the conditions that existed in summer of 1994, their losses likely would have been even greater than they ultimately experienced in November…

Democrats may counter that some polls show that the actual pieces of Obama’s plan have majority support. This doesn’t matter. What matters is that what the public understands to be in Obama’s plan isn’t popular. Polling from 2005 showed that Bush’s actual plan for social security – allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts – split the public 50-50, while people disapproved of the perceived Bush plan – “privatization” – by a 2:1 margin. Perception is what matters, and right now the public is against what it perceives as being the Obama plan; the late summer push to educate voters seems to have failed.

Nor can Democrats likely count on the public “waking up” to what a great bill they’ve passed by 2010. Key portions of it, such as the “public option,” don’t come into being until well after the election.