The Note: Obama Enters ‘What’s In It for Me’ Phase — President Heads to Town-Hall Meetings

By Caitlin Taylor

Aug 11, 2009 8:45am

By TEDDY DAVIS President Obama is about to enter the “what’s in it for me” stage of his health-care push. “I am my brother’s keeper” may have catapulted Obama to national stardom in 2004 but as the president prepares to hold three town-hall meetings on health-care this week, he is planning to de-emphasize what his reforms would mean for the health-care system as a whole. Instead, he will highlight three reforms that are popular among the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance. Those three reforms are: (1) ending the practice of denying insurance coverage to people with a pre-existing illness; (2) keeping people from losing their coverage if they get sick; and (3) protecting Americans who face high out-of-pocket medical costs. To drive the three-part message home, the DNC released a new television ad on Tuesday morning — “What’s In It for Us” — making the same three points. “President Obama’s plan will end unfair insurance practices like denying coverage for a pre-existing condition, outrageous out-of-pocket expenses, and dropping coverage when you get too sick,” a narrator says in the DNC’s 30-second ad. “Health insurance reform means your family’s care comes first, not insurance industry profits.” Watch it HERE.  The DNC is not releasing the size of the buy but the ad will air on national cable, as well as on local cable in New Hampshire, Montana, and Colorado – three states where the president is planning to hold town-hall meetings this week. (And today’s ad is not the end of it: the DNC’s Brad Woodhouse says the Democratic National Committee is planning additional state-specific ads disputing conservative attacks). Downplaying concerns about the town-hall protests which have occurred around the country, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel tells the New York Times: “Don’t associate loud with effective. What is coming across is a lot of noise and a lot of heat without a lot of light.” Emanuel, a former DCCC chair who led the 2006 Democratic takeover of the House, also told The Times that he detected no anxiety from supportive lawmakers in politically vulnerable districts. While Emanuel is confident that the White House counteroffensive is going to salvage health-care reform, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association made clear on Monday that he sees proposed cuts to Medicare as the Democrats’ Achilles heel. “As someone who was chairman of the Republican Party when we tried to increase Medicare spending more slowly and were attacked by the Democrats for cutting Medicare in a two-year ‘Mediscare campaign,’ I know that the Democrats now do not want to talk to anybody about the fact that they are proposing hundreds of billions of dollars of spending reductions in Medicare,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) on a conference call with reporters. On the same call, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R) added: “You’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in spending to Medicare. That’s why I think you see the members of the AARP, separated from the leadership on this issue, because they are just plain scared because they don’t know what it means for them.”
New Hampshire curtain-raisers: President Obama’s first of three town-hall meetings this week takes place in Portsmouth, N.H., at 1:00 pm ET. (His other two take place Friday in Bozeman, Mont., and Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo.).  The Concord Monitor has details on the demonstrations planned for this morning. “Unions urged members to turn out, and New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark McKenzie was slotted to headline a 9:30 a.m. rally. The state’s largest union, the State Employees’ Association, urged members to show up as early as 9 a.m.” “The New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, an assortment of groups involved in the state’s ‘Tax Day’ rallies this spring, sent followers an e-mail urging them to attend a rally outside the high school or along the route Obama will drive and noting that protesters likely won’t be able to bring signs into the event.” “The Free State Project, the group that urges libertarians from across the nation to move to the Granite State, directed followers to a Facebook page urging a protest of ‘government takeover of your healthcare’ starting at 11 a.m. And the New Hampshire Advantage Coalition, a conservative group that has backed municipal tax caps in several cities, instructed protesters to arrive as early as 9 a.m., calling its followers those ‘concerned about losing their private healthcare to government bureaucracy and Congressional political favors.’” Per the Union Leader, a “stream of guests came to pick up their tickets yesterday” in advance of today’s town-hall meeting. “Each filled out a form on the White House Web site and were contacted over the weekend by a member of the President’s advance team. They included Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Most said they had never given money to the Obama campaign.”
Obama Puts Off Immigration Bill Until 2010 Talking about immigration reform at a presser in Guadalajara, Mexico, President Obama said on Monday that he expects draft legislation and sponsors by the end of the year, but no action until 2010 because of more pressing issues, including health-care reform, energy legislation and financial regulatory changes.
ABC’s Sunlen Miller, the Washington Post, and the New York Times have more.

Stephen Dinan and Matthew Mosk of the Washington Times write that Obama’s delay on immigration reform “is a clear departure” from the promise he made in July 2008 at the four-day National Council of La Raza Convention, which attracted more than 20,000 people to the San Diego Convention Center. “I think it’s time for a president who won’t walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform just because it becomes politically unpopular,” Obama said. “I will make it a top priority in my first year as the president of the United States of America.”
Palin Loses Stimulus Fight: The Alaska Legislature voted Monday to override former Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) veto of roughly $28 million in federal stimulus funds intended for energy projects. Per the Anchorage Daily News, “the veto override required a vote of 75 percent of the Legislature, a hurdle that is rarely met. The override passed on a 45 to 14 vote — without a vote to spare. Supporters argued Palin badly overstated the ‘strings’ attached to taking the money, and Alaska could use the assistance.” Palin kept up her fight against the stimulus funds in a Facebook message posted Sunday. “As governor, I did my utmost to warn our legislators that accepting stimulus funds will further tie Alaska to the federal government and chip away at Alaska’s right to chart its own course. Enforcing the federal building code requirements, which Governor Parnell and future governors will be forced to adopt in order to accept these energy funds, will eventually cost the state more than it receives. There are clear ropes attached,” she wrote.
The Kicker: “You want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not secretary of state, I am. If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.” –Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when a Congolese university student asked her for her husband’s thinking on an international financial matter. (It was later discovered that the person who asked Clinton about the Congo trade deal with China was asking her what President Obama thought, not what her husband thought. The translator made the error).
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