By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
"It's déjà vu all over again," says GOP pollster Bill McInturff, who has released a new survey showing that the public has the same negative view of President Obama's healthcare reform plan as it did of the failed plan pushed by Bill and Hillary Clinton. "The data is hauntingly similar to what we saw in 1994. President Obama is learning the same lesson that the Clintons learned: Too much government intervention in the healthcare system can alienate more voters than it attracts."
However, McInturff, a Wall Street Journal/NBC pollster who helped kill Clinton's plan in 1994, would not say that Obama's package faces the same fate. "A lot can happen," he hedged. But the raw data are worrisome, he said. On key questions and issues, the public opinion numbers for Obama are nearly identical to those of Clinton. For example, 64 percent are familiar with Obama's plan at this point; 67 percent were of Clinton's. Some 25 percent favor and 37 percent oppose Obama's plan; 23 percent favored Clinton's and 35 percent opposed it. And 49 percent say that the more they hear about Obama's plan, the less they like it; 52 percent said that of Clinton's.
To save the plan, McInturff suggested that Obama push for a vote on the public insurance option but eventually compromise. "Don't let the window close; take what you can get," he said. "The window is now open." And he suggested a path for Obama to follow to get to a victory. First, he suggested that Obama "rebrand" the package so that people start thinking it's new and different from the one Congress is considering. Next, he advised the White House to focus more on insurance reform than healthcare reform. Finally, he said that Obama should hold events to highlight how he and the Democrats have changed the plan after considering the changes urged by opponents during the summer town hall meetings. "This is a country that still wants the president to be successful," said the pollster.
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