Over at Slate, John Dickerson has an interesting take on yesterday’s health care summit:
If the White House health care summit was political theater, here’s a 30-second review: President Obama won. So did congressional Republicans. Democrats in Congress need another act. This is not because Obama is such a better speaker and advocate for the legislation than his allies, though he is. It’s because Democrats didn’t get much political benefit from the event….
This is why it wasn’t a good day for congressional Democrats. According to strategists involved in 2010 races, fence-sitting Democrats needed to see Obama change the political dynamic. He needed to show how health care reform could be defended and how Republicans could be brought low. He did neither. White House aides and the president himself said he was going to press Republicans for how their plans would work, but he did that only twice-and mildly. There was no put-up-or-shut-up moment.
Obama debated Republicans vigorously and with precision-but it looked like a debate among people with actual philosophical differences, which in part it was. After an in-the-weeds debate about how the Congressional Budget Office accounted for premium increases, it became clear that the debate was between Democrats who want to set minimum standards for coverage and Republicans who want the market and individual choice to rule. The Democratic plan is more expensive but covers more people. The Republican plan is cheaper and doesn’t.
Congressional Democrats clearly believed that they could overcome these philosophical divisions in the country by brute political force. It looks, for now at least, like they were wrong.