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President Barack Obama is using passage of the health care law to help him get re-elected. He’s just not making the sales pitch in public.
Asked at a Nov. 13 press conference in Kapolei, Hawaii, about whether he was concerned about facing voters without passage of his $447 billion jobs package, an unemployment rate of 9 percent, and voters “wondering about your leadership,” the president didn’t tout his biggest domestic-policy achievement. Instead, he pledged “to just keep on chipping away” at getting parts of the jobs bill passed.
The next morning at a 250-person fundraiser at a Walt Disney Co. resort on the island, Obama spent more than 30 minutes ticking off his accomplishments, including the health care overhaul, signed into law in March of last year.
“We’ve already started to see what change looks like,” he told the donors who spent at least $1,000 apiece to attend. “Change is the 1 million young Americans who are already receiving insurance that weren’t getting it before.”
Since July, the president has refrained at six news conferences from discussing the health care measure that became a major issue in the 2010 midterm elections in which the Democrats lost control of the House.
“Right now the White House has made the decision that jobs are the focus,” said Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian. “It’s probably a healthy instinct to realize that, right now, the public would rather hear about what he hopes to do to help them in the present and the future than what has been accomplished in the past.”
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, had a more direct assessment of the White House objectives: “He’s giving his donors red meat,” he said. “Health care’s not a winner for him, it’s off message” for the larger public.
Republicans vying to challenge Obama in next year’s election rarely miss an opportunity to talk about the issue.
Mitt Romney, who enacted a similar health care law when he was governor of Massachusetts, in his first advertisement of the campaign recently vowed to “get rid of ‘Obamacare’ ” because “it’s killing jobs.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry routinely links “Obamacare” with “Romneycare.”