July 22nd, 2009
04:25 PM ET

A steep climb for Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/22/health.reform/art.health.care.reform.obama.gi.jpg]

David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Heading toward a showdown on his top domestic priority - and possibly the linchpin to his presidency - Barack Obama carries two handicaps into his prime time press conference tonight.

First, he does not yet have a fully formed health care plan to "sell" to the country. Ordinarily, a president trying to persuade the public on a contentious issue has a firm plan to present in prime time. But the nature of the process in health care has meant that five different Congressional committees are working on ideas - and two of the most influential have not even reported yet on their recommendations.

As a result, the President is left to rail against the status quo - and he does this with great persuasiveness - but he is unable to bring his much respected oratorical power to bear on convincing people exactly what to do to fix things.

Second, the President is taking to the airwaves at a time when he no longer seems to have as big a welcome mat as in the past. Not only are his high poll numbers slipping a bit but so are his audience numbers. For his first prime time press conference in February, some 49.5 million people - a whopping number - tuned in. For his second, in March, 40.4 million watched. And in his third, in April, the total dropped to 28.8 million. Observers will closely watch the returns tonight.

He may be testing the outer limits of media presence. Tonight will mark his fifth major prime time appearance in his first six months. Even FDR, a legendary communicator, had only three fireside chats in the same time frame. (George W. Bush held four prime time press conferences in his whole eight years).

Obama's lieutenants will tell you he has a history of rising to the occasion and that already he has advanced health care reform farther than any of his Democratic predecessors. They are right on both arguments. But they know as well this will be one of the steepest, most important climbs of his young presidency.

soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Barb

    Who is really the president, Nancy Polsky, and Harry Reid are making all the decisions on the bills that are pasted Obama doesn't even read them before he signs them.All his advisors, and czar's are making desions on the bail outs. He goes too other countries and blames americans for everything. He is more than willing too make the United States of America unsafe too please other countries and become popular in their eye's.This bill will pass, just like all the rest when the Democrats want it too pass , Obama is just a salesman that knows how too talk and sign his name.

    July 23, 2009 at 8:52 am |
  2. Joyce Mitchell

    President Obama is right . The voices against Health care reform are coming from the legislatures that have received hefty amounts to their coffers. It is hard to vote against those that pack your pockets.
    The country need to put controls on health care providers. Our ins cost $1010 to cover the 2 in the family. It is the best offered by our state for its employees. In 2006 it was $776 a month. By reports it will increase by 30% in the coming year, while our wages are cut by 20%. The people have ask for this for 61 years.
    I'll pay my $1010 for an insurance that will not control what and how my doctor treats my body, and maybe he can treat the whole body instead of dissecting it into parts. It really is hard to walk with an injured foot.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:28 am |
  3. guy

    Leave my health care alone! I work, and I do not want my health care dollars spent on those who do not. I am not interested in sacrifice. Let Obama sacrifice! Let Kennedy sacrifice! i am sorry, but I am already supporting my share of deadbeats, and I am getting tired of this.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:26 am |
  4. Jenni

    We have well trained doctors in this country. World leaders seeking treatment fly to USA even when they have socialize medicine in their country. When it comes to medicine, this country is very advance in treatment and doing a lot of R&D, you can't say the same with other countries with socialize medicine. If people spend some time to read HR3200, they don't want it; it has all the mechanics of denying treatment all the way to going through your bank account. Socialize medicine offered by Obama he himself admitted he hasn't read takes away your right to choose and right to privacy.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:21 am |
  5. Jenni

    I experienced socialize medicine (UK), suffice to say it frightens me up to now. I almost lost all my teeth for a simple filling. It got infected, my tooth turned black and infected other teeth beside it. I end up flying back in USA unscheduled, thank God for that! I did not lose all my teeth. My orhtodentist told me, UK dentist had done a botched up job. I don't want socialize medicine, I'm happy with my health insurance, yes my premium is quite high but taking care of my health is my priority. If Obama is serious, he must put a cap on malpractice lawsuit and no welfare and medical coverage for illegal immigrants, they're the one making our healthcare expense. We also need Tort Reform.

    July 23, 2009 at 6:17 am |
  6. Tony

    Obama's promise to us, is not being met by problems.....
    It's being met by the doctors profits, they don't want this
    because they won't be able to rob us anymore.....
    They would have to step up to the plate, like they do in

    July 23, 2009 at 5:27 am |
  7. Stacey Tahlequah OK

    OBama keeps saying his health care bill will not add to the deficit over the NEXT decade, I can't help but wonder how much will it add to it after the next decade. I have come to realize that he is the type of person that would say "Well I said it wouldn't add to it in the NEXT decade"

    July 23, 2009 at 5:16 am |
  8. D G

    This people are stupid talking about the economy Bush is the reason for the ecomony issue contact him. UK has health care the it Citizens Canada has it also, But the USA the so call great country can' even take of of it own , Yes I am American, it long over due health care c\reform is need to assist people who have to die because they cant afford to. This is no better that third world countries and is very inhumane that some will die because the cant afford to pay.

    July 23, 2009 at 5:15 am |
  9. Agatha

    All these people who want government healthcare; also want someone else to pay for it.

    It reminds me of people who think that beverages and snacks on a plane are free because they don't see the cost itemized on their airline ticket.

    Obama's HealthCare Plan: according to my grandmother who died in 1982.
    In 1980, during my grandmother's first airplane flight, she was so surprised and pleased when the flight attendant put a tray of food before her. She was beaming. How nice they were to offer her food on
    this long flight.
    I told her that the price of the food was in the ticket she bought.
    The horror on her face: that she had bought this food with her own money. She tried to throw it in the isles. She would never have bought such crap.

    July 23, 2009 at 4:57 am |
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