By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
It's going to get nasty on the campaign trail if Democrats follow through with promises to pass President Obama's healthcare reform plan without Republicans'—and much of the public's—support. With little chance of influencing the potential congressional vote on the reform plan later this week, the GOP has shifted to warning Democrats that they'll be gunning for them come Election Day in November.
Several GOP leadership aides today laid out different paths to what amounts to scaring Democrats about joining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass the historic healthcare package pushed by the president. The attack has two prongs.
First, the GOP plans to reiterate recent comments from Democratic pollsters and Obama advisers that a vote for the unpopular reform package could be political suicide. Pollsters Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen were the latest to sound the retreat. Says a GOP official: "This bill and the process by which it has been considered is as popular as a pink slip, and the congressmen and women who vote for it will undoubtedly be reminded of that in November."
Then there's the easy scare tactic of raising the possibility—seen before—of the Senate not backing up a courageous House vote with passage, essentially hanging House members out to dry. Already there is talk that the White House is willing to give special deals to senators whose votes they need but not similar favors to House members. "The White House caving to Senate Democrats who want to keep their sweetheart deals should also irritate the hell out of House Democrats," says a Senate Republican leadership aide.
And look for the GOP to play up broader public reaction to the bills, especially polls that show a majority don't favor the overall plan and other polls that show Americans concerned with the backroom deals cut to win passage.
On the other side, Democrats are saying to bring it on, believing that once a victory is secure, it will be easier to promote the benefits of the package.