The President gave an excellent speech last night and did some things right that he should have done months ago. Until further evidence, I'm still of the view that the future of healthcare reform is not dependent on the detail of the President's plan but on the big issues that he finally addressed tonight.
He linked healthcare reform to the role of government. Moderate voters are worried about what they perceive to be the rapidly expanding role of government. The President addressed that issue head-on tonight. Moreover, he explained why providing healthcare for all Americans is not only consistent with fundamental American values, but it is who we are as Americans. Both of those moves were necessary to re-shaping the debate and should have been the way he framed the debate from the beginning. These moves also infused the President's case with the necessary emotion and passion that was lacking in his last major healthcare address.
The President also attempted to more effectively portray his approach as the more moderate approach of those out there. He repeatedly noted how his plan borrows ideas from both conservatives and liberals. He offered a limited public option and opened the door to medical malpractice reform. He also noted that his plan rejected extreme positions from both Republicans and Democrats. But make no mistake, the President has picked his side and he is going with his party. The Republicans are on notice that he is willing to go at it without them.
Finally, the President started to articulate the case why Americans should trust him to solve this problem. Median voters will be moved to the President's side not because of the detail of his presentation, but because the President has given them reason to believe that he understands their concerns and they can trust him to handle this issue.
The question is whether this is too little too late. The shine on the Obama presidency has nearly worn off. Republicans are no longer afraid to oppose him and conservative Democrats are trying to figure out where they stand. The calendar does not favor reform. But I'm not ready to bet against Obama, yet.