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All Obama, all the time: President takes lead in health care debate — MedCity Morning Read, July 21, 2009

President Barack Obama may have no bigger challenge to translate his personal popularity into a successful legislative agenda than during the next two weeks as he takes the lead on the health care debate. Obama comes to Cleveland on Thursday for a town hall meeting on health care reform.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama may have no bigger challenge to translate his personal popularity into a successful legislative agenda than during the next two weeks as he takes the lead on the health care debate, the Washington Post said.

With skepticism about the president’s health care agenda mounting on Capitol Hill — even among members of the Democratic Party — the White House has launched a new phase of its strategy to increase pressure on Congress — All Obama, all the time, the Post said.

 The personal public pressure campaign includes a prime-time news conference on Wednesday, a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, that will include another town hall meeting on health care on Thursday, and heavy use of the Internet to broadcast his video messages beyond the reach of traditional media, according to the Post.

During a Monday event, Obama seized on the comment of a Republican senator that health care reform may be the president’s popularity undoing, the Los Angeles Times said. A new poll that showed public approval of Obama’s work on overhauling health care dropped below 50 percent for the first time, highlighting his political peril, the L.A. Times said.

“Our strategy has been to allow this process to advance to the point where it made sense for the president to take the baton. Now’s that time,” senior advisor David Axelrod told the Post. “I don’t know whether he will Twitter or tweet. But he’s going to be very, very visible.”

Even as the president returns to full-time campaigning mode, he faces increasing calls to show that his administration can handle the tough, nitty-gritty of lawmaking by cutting deals with allies to keep his health care agenda advancing in the House and Senate, the Post said.

Conservative House Democrats are promising to vote against reform, as it now stands, and are preparing two dozen amendments, including measures to lower the long-term cost of reforming health care. In the Senate, members of both political parties are urging the president to break his campaign promise to avoid raising taxes on middle-class Americans by beginning to tax their health care benefits, according to the Post.

In addition, Obama is facing a weary chorus from Capitol Hill urging him to abandon his demand for passage of bills in the House and Senate by Aug. 7.

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[Photo credit: June 11, 2009, White House photo by Chuck Kennedy]

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