Politico reports on the next health care battle: using the bill just passed to gain congressional seats in the midterm elections. "Starting Monday, a coalition of progressive groups — from labor unions to health care advocates — will sink millions of dollars into television advertising and sponsor grassroots events in swing House districts thanking Democrats for passing the law and highlighting its importance for average Americans. ... Republicans scoff at the idea that the Democrats can quickly turn around public opinion, which most polls show runs against the reform package. And they are vowing to bring relentless attention to those who cast the 'yea' votes for reform."
Democrats could learn from the efforts of President George W. Bush's administration after Medicare Part D was passed in a similarly partisan manner. Officials managed to sway public support for the legislation anyway. But the length of time many of the changes in the new legislation will take to go into effect could hurt that effort. "What really matters is showing people it really works. Some people will see benefits next year. But for most people it will not have a big effect — except maybe some increases in premiums — until 2014. That's two election cycles away," said Mark McClellan, a former Bush White House official (Cummings, 3/22).
The Wall Street Journal: "Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who tracks attitudes on health care, said the intensity of opposition may soften. But he doubts that overall views will shift much. … Democrats say Sunday's vote will help build an argument to voters for keeping the party's congressional majorities in the November elections. But they will try to change the subject to more politically palatable issues, especially jobs and the economy, even as they sell their health-care plan to a still-skeptical electorate."
Both parties have their work cut out for them, with Republicans "seeking to turn the 2010 campaign into a referendum on the president's agenda," and the Obama administration "must still persuade Americans the measure is better than most think it is" (Weisman, Meckler, 3/22).