Obama Has Work Cut Out for Him to Sell Health Care Bill

After a long battle over health reform, President Obama spoke to the American people on Sunday night about the House vote that for better or worse, sealed his political fate: "Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics... We proved that this government of the people and by the people - still works for the people." (video at left)

He also alluded to, as he had frequently in the final barnstorming push for reform, that he wasn't sure of how the politics were going to play out, he said he was doing it because it was the right thing to do.

So as he signs the historic reform bill, the political punditry has begun its analysis and all sides of the debate are beginning to craft their vision for how reform will play out in the November mid-term elections.

And for that, no one really knows. The new CBS News poll out yesterday, conducted before the House voted, shows that most people are unsure of what's in the reform package.

When asked how the reforms will affect the health care system, 29 percent of respondents said "Better" and 34 percent said "Worse." But 28 percent said they didn't know enough. And when asked if they understood the reforms, 54 percent of respondents said they were confusion, only 42 percent said they understood what's in the bill.

But overall, most Americans think that Democrats and Republicans took their health care stances for political reasons, a majority of Americans said the health care reform efforts made them more pessimistic about Washington and only 37 percent of them approve of the health care bill.

So it seems that the president has his work cut out for him as he takes his case, selling the benefits of the reform bill to the public. He will begin this week with a trip to Iowa City, Iowa on Thursday -- where a few years ago he first kicked off the campaign push for health care reform.

With health care reform finally passed, most pundits will look at future polling to see if the end of the debate will clear the air on what the reform does and what it means.

In other words, without the daily partisan battling over health care that's been the main focus of Washington for over a year, will people have an open mind about what's in the bill? Regardless, it's an accomplishment that the president and Democrats can run on.

"Now that health care reform has passed the house, the president and Democrats can say, we saw a problem, we found a solution, and we were able to pass it. They can now campaign on actually doing things, on achievements and accomplishments and say send us back and now we've shown we can do the things we promised we'd do," said John Dickerson of Slate and a CBS News Political Analyst.

As the president begins the sales job on health care -- he and his Democratic allies will need to be cognizant of the other issues that Americans care about - jobs and the economy.

"Republicans have said they will make the election in November a referendum on health care reform, the president will constantly have to tend that question as he campaigns for Democrats and Democrats will have to answer, and a lot of their time will be spent talking about health care," said Dickerson. "The question is how can they boast about this achievement in a way that connects with people and then pivot to questions about the economy, jobs and the deficit that are really on people's minds."

Details of the Bill:

Summary of What's in the Bill
Provisions Which Take Effect in Short-Term
Uninsured? What the New Bill Means for You
Already Insured? Get Ready to Pay More
Calorie Counts Coming to Many Food Menus
College Aid Reform Passes with Health Bill
Read the Text (PDF): Complete Senate Bill | Reconciliation Measure

More Coverage of Health Care Reform:

Health Care Bill Signed by Obama
Poll: Most Say Health Care Fight About Politics, Not Policy
Poll: Most Give Obama Credit for Health Care Bill
GOP Looks to Courts, Polls to Repeal Health Care Bill
Obama Has Work Cut Out for Him to Sell Health Care Bill
RNC's Steele: Dems Thumbed Their Nose at America
Health Care Reform: Which Party Comes Out on Top?
Marc Ambinder: Nine Events That Led to Passage of Health Care Reform
Mark Knoller: Health Care Debate Shows Ideological Split
The Historic Health Care Push: A Look Back
Rush Limbaugh: "America is Hanging by a Thread"
CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care


Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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