Analysis: Reverberations for Santorum, GOP?

"First, it is big — none of this micro-presidency that we have seen in the past," said Will. "Second, it is deeply felt and arises from a family experience, he had a child who was quite sick and he became aware of what it was like to become dependent on contingent health care. Third, it will energize the Democratic base. … [And] it is anti-Bush because you cannot talk about it without attacking Bush's tax cut all the way back to 2001, which he would repeal to pay for it. This confirms my view, which is he is not only the most presidential of the Democrats but he would be the most difficult for Bush to beat."

Martin joined in Will's praise of the Gephardt proposal.

"I think it is deeply felt and addresses a real problem with a real solution, and it sets up a real contrast with the incumbent," she said.

Zakaria said the health care plan would put political pressure on the other Democratic candidates to come up with something as bold.

"I actually think it is very good politics also because increasingly Americans are beginning to understand something that Clinton did talk about a lot, which is, in a post-industrial economy people get fired or leave their jobs much more often than they used to," said Zakaria. "It is not like the government is not involved in health care. We are proposing ever-expanding involvement of the government in health care. … The question is how the government should spend its money on health care, and Gephardt's is the most compelling [answer]."

ABCNEWS' Gayle Tzemach contributed to this report.

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