Why Polls Are Wrong on Health Reform's Future Popularity

Middle-class America will come around on healthcare, if jobs and wars are addressed too.

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By John A. Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Marty Nolan is one of the smarter guys to ever cover American politics for a newspaper, and so I pass along his thoughts on the political impact of the Democratic healthcare plan.

Marty's advice: Forget what the public opinion polls are showing now. And to a considerable extent, I agree.

The best features of the health bill—the security it gives to working families and the way it protects the rest of us from the terrible economic risks of catastrophic illness—were settled long ago. For months, they've been largely ignored in the 24-hour news cycle, and Americans have instead been fed a steady stream of stories about minor flaps like the abortion coverage.

I'll wager that some of the discontent measured by the polls reflects peoples' reaction to the news coverage, their traditional distaste for the lawmaking process, and their suspicion that Congress was never going to get the thing done at all.

Now, if things hold together for the next few weeks, the Democrats will have, as Jonathan Cohn notes, a fine product to sell and a premium opportunity—at President Obama's State of the Union speech—in which to make their pitch.

Once the legislation kicks in—and a family of four with an income of $50,000 sees its potential healthcare costs shrink from $25,000 a year to $10,000 a year—it's likely to be a favorite of working-class voters. And its long-term effect—guaranteeing basic healthcare—may, as Marty notes, prove quite popular.

But as I argued yesterday, the Democrats cannot just sell healthcare. The war and the economy and the country's soaring debt need to be addressed as well. There is a lot of talk among Democrats about coming back in the coming years to refine, tinker with, and add to the healthcare legislation. They won't get that opportunity unless they keep us safe, working, and confident about the future.

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