Obama Tries to Reclaim Health Care Debate

As Americans observe this unofficial last weekend of summer, the Obama administration is gearing up for a busy week and relaunching its massive push for health care reform.

Today, President Obama's top advisors hit the airwaves. The debate on capitol hill is heating up again and on Wednesday the president takes his case directly to the public, as CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports.

After months of speeches, interviews and town hall meetings, this Wednesday, the President will tell Congress and the American people something they haven't heard before: exactly what he wants to see in health care reform.

As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it, "people will leave that speech knowing where he stands."

That may answer whether President Obama will insist on the controversial "public option," a government-provided health insurance alternative. The White House was still avoiding directly answering that question today.

"He believes the public option is a good tool," White House adviser David Axelrod said today. "It shouldn't define the whole health care debate, however."

But after the media read that soundbyte as a retreat from the public option - the White House fired back that it's still on their preferred option. It's just not a deal-breaker.

Until now, the White House has resisted drafting its own bill - instead, offering general ideas. The president wanted Congress to come up with the specifics in bipartisan legislation so he wouldn't be accused of dictating a plan, or some critics say risk his personal prestige backing individual parts of the bill.

But that's given the president's opposition free rein to frame the debate.

And the intense media focus on the normal, ugly bruising process of drafting any bill - the political squabbling, the missed deadlines - has turned the American public off. They've blamed the president, and now he's got to win them back.

"This is probably a make-or-break week for the president's health care plan," said Politico senior editor David Mark.

Mr. Obama's national approval rating has dropped to 56 percent, according to a Sept. 1 CBS News poll. That's the lowest to date during his term and down from 68 percent in April. But he's still arguably the most popular politician in the land.

"They still very much like the president personally," Marks aid. "So I think he's going to use his own starpower to try and sell that to Congress."

One thing it has done is spooked some of those lawmakers into action. Sen. Max Baucus is convening the main group working on the senate version of the bill Tuesday, to try to come up with their version, before the president takes control of the debate.