Transcript: Sebelius, Specter and Hatch

BRAZILE: Because, in the sausage-making exercise that we all -- at least some of us who -- Hill staffers, he lost control of the debate. But he has an opportunity in September to not only regain control of the debate, but to really put forward his own principles that will guide the Senate. It may not be -- the final bill may not be as sweeping as the House bill, but I'm sure it's going to be a lot better than the Senate bill.

KORNBLUT: That's why Ron's point earlier was right. I mean, what they've lost control of just isn't the public message out in the country, it's up on Capitol Hill. And you have a Democrat in the Senate Finance Committee, and the White House was supposed to have a lot of juice with that particular Democrat, and it still hasn't come to fruition yet.

TAPPER: Max Baucus.

KORNBLUT: I think -- I think that the real problem is going to be that the White House has to go dark when the president goes on vacation. So in terms of the message, we saw these three town hall meetings, and now he's going to go away, and there's going to be a week-and-a-half now of other town hall meetings that could really dominate.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, what Bill Clinton said, though, in that clip is, I think, the counterintuitive conclusion that many Democrats are reaching about these town hall meetings, starting from the assumption that it is broader -- it is a broader complaint than just simply the health care bill.

It is -- it is a mobilization of the conservative base largely that is opposed to the overall direction of the Obama administration. And I think that rather than convincing Democrats to back off, what I have been hearing the last few days is that, look, it underscores the danger of allowing this to go down for Democrats.

If -- if -- if this uprising defeats health care and derails health care, it is the -- it could be the beginning of an unraveling, as it was, certainly, in '93 and '94. Now, there's risk in going ahead, obviously, for Democrats, because you could see a conservative surge to the polls in 2010, as you did in '94, 9 million more Republican votes in '94 than in 1990. And there's no doubt the conservative base has been awakened by this and the overall direction of the administration.

But I think the conclusion that most Democrats are reaching is that they have no choice but to go forward and to finish this and to provide an accomplishment they can run on in 2010. It's not going to be easy going -- you know, finding something that they can pass is not going to be easy, but in some ways it's even riskier to do nothing than it is to do something, because I think it would be seen as a defeat that would further empower and -- and energize this conservative base that is awakening.

So the effects of these town halls may not be exactly what we are assuming at this point, because in some ways it may make the Democrats convinced they have more to lose by dropping it than by going forward.

TAPPER: And that's -- that's certainly the point that Bill Clinton's been making, is that it's better to have something passed than nothing, and progressives and liberals should prepare...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: ... and should prepare for -- for a weaker bill, but it's better than nothing.

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