Reform on the Ropes? Get Fired Up.

By Natalie Gewargis

Sep 7, 2009 3:28pm

ABC News' Rachel Martin and Sunlen Miller Report: What do you do when your poll numbers are at record lows and the issue you hope to hang your legacy on is getting more controversial by the day? If you're President Obama, you dig up a favorite campaign chestnut and "Get Fired Up!"

It was a frequent rallying cry of then candidate Obama…the story of a somewhat random campaign stop in Greenwood, South Carolina. The President glad-handed with the group of about 20 people and from the back of the room he heard a woman yell, "Fired Up? Ready to Go?" A small woman dressed in a fancy church hat then triggered a raucous call and response that invigorated the crowd and the President.

Obama went off script to spontaneously tell this story again today, at the conclusion of his remarks at an AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic. When he did so, it was if he was digging deep within his own experience to summon up some kind of renewed fight..fight he will need as he prepares to deliver what is being hailed as a "make it or break it" speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

The President gave a bit of a preview of that address today: "We've been fighting for quality, affordable health care for every American for nearly a century-since Teddy Roosevelt. The Congress and the country have been engaged in a vigorous debate for many months. And debate is good, because we have to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. There comes a time to decide, a time to act. And Ohio, it's time to act and get this thing done!"

The White House has said the President will use the address tomorrow night to "draw lines in the sand" in this debate and tackle criticisms head on. Today the President seemed to be practically egging on his conservative critics. "I've got a question for them: What's your answer? What's your solution? The truth is, they don't have one. It's do nothing."

Obama reaffirmed his support of a public option today – an idea that many on the left say is a "must-have" and many on the right say is a "no-go". There's been speculation that the President might back down from pushing a public option but today he said this: "I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs." But he didn't say he'd veto a bill that cut the public option out.

Obama was among friends today. About ten thousand people packed a local stadium, chanting their support for him and his health care plan. And yes, the President looked fired up. But on Wednesday his job will be different and so will his audience. Being fired up won't be enough. He'll have to ignite new momentum for his plan – before it burns out.

-Rachel Martin and Sunlen Miller

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