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White House Pegged Chances for Health Reform at 51%, Report Says

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks during a television interview at the White House, Wednesday, April 29, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
AP Photo/Ron Edmonds
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks during a television interview at the White House, Wednesday, April 29, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
The White House at the beginning of the month put its odds of passing health care reform at 51 percent, the New York Times reports, making President Obama's fierce, final push for reform a risky gamble.

"That 49 percent chance of failure could devastate Obama's presidency, weaken Democrats heading into the fall midterm elections and trigger an even fiercer, more debilitating round of finger-pointing inside the administration," writes Peter Baker of the Times, in a profile of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

As the health care debate continues to drag on, Emanuel has become a punching bag for the left and the right, Baker writes. He is perceived as the person in the White House who aggressively but pragmatically pursues congressional votes for the president's agenda. His intensity even prompted resigning Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) to call him "the son of the devil's spawn."

Not everyone is convinced of Emanuel's effectiveness, however. Emanuel could have done more to sway Democratic lawmakers to support the president's plan, one unnamed Democratic congressman told Baker: "We need a little less ballerina and a little more L.B.J.," he said. "For all the reputation of being able to bust knee caps, we haven't seen nos turned to yeses."