President Obama Seeks to Remake His Agenda as Health Care Divides Democrats

Some Say Obama Should Drop Health Care, Others Say He Should Push Ahead

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 25, 2010, 8:11 AM

Jan. 25, 2010— -- Still reeling from the Democratic Party's loss in Massachusetts to Republican State Sen. Scott Brown, President Obama is hoping to remake his message as divisions deepen among Democrats on health care legislation.

The president has brought in his 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, to help run his political operation as he seeks to put his agenda back on track.

Recruited by Obama to supervise House, Senate and gubernatorial elections, Plouffe says Democrats need to push ahead.

"The health care plan has become a caricature," Plouffe said. "And if we walk away from it now, everyone who supported it is going to have all of the downside and none of the upside. We won the House and Senate in 2006, we won the presidency in 2008 ... calling for change.

"Well, that's just not a word. It was a lot about health care, about issues of energy. We have to deliver. If we don't deliver, I think voters will rightfully say, 'You know what's going on here?' We have to pass health care reform. And I think the politics of it [in] the months to come and years to come are going to be very favorable to us."

But unless the president and his party members explain to Americans that they have a coherent strategy, some Democrats say, the party risks losing seats in Congress.

"Right now, unless the president is able to change direction, we will have a rough 2010," Democratic strategist James Carville said on "Good Morning America" today. "You have to think, unless something is done to change direction, I think everything's at risk.

"I don't think it will happen," Carville said of Democrats' losing their majority. "You got to look at this thing in Massachusetts and see there's a real signal here. If you don't deal with it, it's going to get worse."

Some Democrats are already distancing themselves from Obama's agenda and the health care plan, exposing deep divisions in the Democratic Party.

A former Democratic congressman from Tennessee, Harold Ford Jr., said Democrats and the president should take lessons from their loss in Massachusetts and drop health care.

"With one out of five Americans unemployed or underemployed, President Obama and the Democratic Party need to shift attention away from health care and toward a bold effort to create jobs, improve the economy and rein in the size of government," Ford wrote in an op-ed in today's New York Times. "By focusing on job creation and deficit reduction, we can expand our economy and balance the budget."

But others, such as Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, disagree and say the president needs to be more combative.

"I want him to issue a call to arms," Rendell said.

"My message to those Democrats is don't be afraid. Listen, you got elected because you wanted to do something to change the quality of people's lives. Here we have a chance to do something historic and if it means some of us are going to lose because of that, so be it. At least you will have lost your office fighting for something and accomplishing something."