This morning I spoke with David Plouffe, the campaign manager for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, who said giving up on health care reform legislation would be a victory for the insurance companies and a disaster for Democrats.
“You’re seeing a lot of Republicans out there saying, you know, ‘Let’s just scrap it, let’s start over,’” Plouffe said. “That’s what we’ve been doing in this country for years, decades, and even generations. And that’s what the insurance companies want us to do.”
Plouffe said “the health care plan has become a caricature. And if we walk away from it now everyone who supported it is going to have all of the downside and none of the upside.” Not passing health care reform legislation would be “the worst thing we can do as a Democratic party.”
On the other hand, Plouffe said, “if this passes, every American is gonna say, ‘Hey—nothing’s changed for me in my ability to see my doctor.’ Seniors are going to see that they’re going to get relief on health care costs. Businesses are going to see costs go down. Pre-existing conditions are no longer going to be an issue in terms of coverage. So I think we have to press forward here. Most importantly because it’s the right thing to do for the country.”
As to what strategy Democrats should pursue in a Senate with only 59 Democratic votes, Plouffe said “the bill that was passed out of the Senate accomplishes a lot of the president’s priorities or all of them: Lowering costs, ending insurance company abuses, providing coverage in a way that’s going to strengthen our country for the long term.”
Asked about plans to have House Democrats pass the Senate bill, Plouffe said, “to me, it would probably be the, you know, a sound option because I think we cannot wait in this country.” “We were given control of the House and Senate in 2006, we won the White House in 2008, we have to deliver, we have to lead, and if we don’t I think people will rightfully question you know how well this has really turned out,” Plouffe said. “So we have to really lead on this and have the courage to do so. And I think if we do that in the years to come, the country will be better off in the years to come but I think also politically we’ll be better off.”
In a not-so-veiled shot at Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley and her failed Senate campaign, Plouffe said, “obviously what’s frustrating about Massachusetts is I think even a mediocre campaign on our side would have won that race.”
Plouffe said that Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s opposition to Democrats’ health care reform proposals worked because “what’s happening now is on health care is there’s a lot of energy on the Republican party but even independents I think are being told, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen on health care: You’re not going to be able to see your doctor anymore, there’s not going to be any cost relief, you know, you’re not going to be able to get your procedures.’ None of that is going to happen and perhaps we need to do a better job of messaging that.
“I think the thing that’s going to solve that problem is to pass it. Because health care reform ultimately if it passes, the evaluation of it is not going to be a Washington, DC, spin war. Every American is a consumer of health care and they’ll make their own decision about what does health care reform mean to me and I think if we pass this we’re going to begin to get the upside politically of taking on the insurance companies finally and delivering on some of the promise of the campaign from 2008.”