I’m not sure exactly what Chuck Todd is trying to prove here:
[T]he speech also will be a failure if progressives — Obama’s second audience tonight — are still obsessing over the public option a week from now. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Obama never made the public option the focus of his health-care ideas, in the primaries or in general election. In fact, he never uttered the words "public option" or "public plan" in his big campaign speeches on health care. But there is no doubt that the public option has fired up the left, and how he sells them near-universal coverage and lower costs — even if it means no public plan — could very well be the trickiest part of tonight’s speech.
From the Obama ’08 campaign document, "Barack Obama’s Plan for a Healthy America" (PDF):
The Obama plan both builds upon and improves our current insurance system, upon which most Americans continue to rely, and leaves Medicare intact for older and disabled Americans. The Obama plan also addresses the large gaps in coverage that leave 45 million Americans uninsured. Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees; (2) make available the National Health Insurance Exchange to help Americans and businesses that want to purchase private health insurance directly; (3) require all employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees; (4) mandate all children have health care coverage; (5) expand Medicaid and SCHIP to cover more of the least well-off among us; and (6) allow state flexibility for state health reform plans.
I’m not quite sure how that jibes with "never made it the focus of his health care ideas," but YMMV.
But if the DC wags think that the base is going to get over its "fixation" on a public option in a week, I seriously doubt it. Here’s Rasmusssen from yesterday:
One major challenge is that while most voters oppose the legislation with or without a so-called “public option, that option is essential to supporters. In fact, without the inclusion of a government-run health insurance company to compete with private insurers, enthusiasm for the reform plan collapses among Democrats.
Mind you the polling data is from mid-August, well before the speech, but I doubt he moved that needle much:
Without the public option, just 50% of Democrats support the legislation. That’s down from 69% support measured a week ago. But here the enthusiasm gap is especially strong. A week ago, polling found that 44% of Democrats Strongly favored the reform plan. Without the public option, just 12% of Democrats Strongly support it.
Instead, he’s trying to exploit this:
A cautionary note should be issued on this topic: It’s likely that there is no common understanding of just what the public option is at this point in time.
Obama says he will include a public option in his health care plan, but stipulates that co-ops or triggers could satisfy his definition. But 179 members of Congress signed on to HCAN’s health care principles, which explicitly define a "public option" as not co-ops or triggers. It’s not going to be easy to walk that one back without completely demoralizing the base and potentially suppressing 2010 turnout just like the passage of NAFTA did in 2004.