Some liberal groups are finally acknowledging the obvious: Hardly anyone believed their claims that ObamaCare would “bend the cost curve downward” and help balance the federal budget.
The public rejection of the claims may not be news, but the left’s acknowledgment of this defeat does qualify as a scoop — and Politico’s Ben Smith is the one who got it:
Key White House allies are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and the deficit and instead stressing a promise to “improve it.”
The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by Families USA — one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. The call was led by a staffer for the Herndon Alliance, which includes leading labor groups and other health care allies. It was based on polling from three top Democratic pollsters, John Anzalone, Celinda Lake and Stan Greenberg
The confidential presentation, available in full here and provided to POLITICO by a source on the call, suggests that Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage, as its benefits became clear and rhetoric cooled. Instead, the presentation is designed to win over a skeptical public and to defend the legislation — and in particular the individual mandate — from a push for repeal.
The presentation concedes that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college-educated women and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan. Indeed, it stresses repeatedly, many are unaware that the legislation has passed, an astonishing shortcoming in the White House’s all-out communications effort.
“Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to [move] voters’ opinions about the law,” reads one slide. “Women in particular are concerned that health care law will mean less provider availability — scarcity an issue.”
The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House’s first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.
“Many don’t believe health care reform will help the economy,” reads another slide.
The presentation’s final page of “Don’ts” counsels against claiming “the law will reduce costs and [the] deficit.”
So, what do the pollsters and advisers recommend? That Democrats and their fellow travelers focus instead on personal stories like greedy doctors who needlessly remove kids’ tonsils — er, I mean, greedy doctors who amputate diabetics’ feet instead of telling them to modify their diets — er, I mean, well, Smith reports the advice here:
“People can be moved from initial skepticism and support for repeal of the law to favorable feelings and resisting repeal,” it says. “Use personal stories — coupled with clear, simple descriptions of how the law benefits people at the individual level — to convey critical benefits of reform.”
And, finally, they recommend telling the public that the law may not be that great, but don’t worry — the great ObamaCare debate of 2009-10 was just a prelude to our efforts to truly fix health care:
“Keep claims small and credible; don’t overpromise or ’spin’ what the law delivers,” it says, suggesting supporters say, “The law is not perfect, but it does good things and helps many people. Now we’ll work to improve it.”
How about this for a tagline: “We had to pass the bill so that we could find out what needed fixing in it.”
(H/t: Hot Air)