President Obama and Senate Democrats have pledged to make the 2010 midterm elections a referendum on Obamacare. "If Republicans want to campaign against what we have done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have," Obama said Thursday. But during Sunday's rally for Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley at Northeastern University--Obama's first campaign appearance of 2010--he tried to keep the spotlight off of the health care legislation that Massachusetts voters could kill on Tuesday.
Obama mentioned "Wall Street" five times while talking about his proposal to tax banks. He mentioned taxes more than a dozen times. But when it came to health care, the president could muster only a few oblique references to health care reform in general. Talking about the letters he reads from average citizens, Obama said, "Sometimes it's young children who are writing: ... Mr. President, can you help, my brother is sick and we don't have health insurance."
Obama also said that Ted Kennedy waged a "personal battle" for "seniors who are living on fixed incomes, for families struggling to get health coverage for their children, for students who dream of a college education." Health care reform, which Kennedy called "the cause of my life," is just one issue on a laundry list of others--no mention that Kennedy's legislation hangs in the balance on Tuesday.
"Understand what's at stake here, Massachusetts," Obama said toward the end of his speech before talking about abstract ideas of progress rather than a concrete legislative agenda. "It's whether we're going forward or backwards. It's whether we're going to have a future where everybody gets a shot in this society or just the privileged few. If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this election."
Coakley too didn't mention the health care legislation in Congress. At one point, she told a story about a couple named "Jim and Karen," who had health care and insurance problems, and said: "They know I will go to Washington and fight for them." But she couldn't bring herself to say, I'm going to go vote for a health care bill to fix these problems.
The reason for this shiftiness is obvious: Massachusetts voters oppose Obamacare. In fact, they oppose "President Obama's health care plan" 48% to 40%, according to the new PPP poll.
Those polling numbers also explain why Brown is so confident in attacking the health care bill head on. He said, according to remarks as prepared for delivery, at his rally in Worcester on Sunday:
We do not want a senator whose only question on health care is to ask Harry Reid, “How do you want me to vote?” Massachusetts wants real reform, and not this trillion-dollar Obama health care bill being forced on the American people.
This bill would raise taxes. It would cut Medicare by half a trillion dollars. It would be unfair to our veterans. It would destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – and as your senator, I will insist we start over.
I will work in the Senate to reform health care in the right way, the honest way. No more closed-door meetings behind the scenes. No more arrogant party leadership. We can do better, and as the 41st senator I’ll make sure of it.
In health care, we need to start fresh, work together, and do the job right.