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« NV SEN: Another Potential Reid Challenger Passes | Blog Home Page | Strategy Memo: Town Halls Galore »

Winning The Message War?

Just where does the White House think it stands in the message war on health care today? Press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about messaging problems several times during a gaggle on Air Force One en route to Portsmouth today. Here's one of his answers.

I think we are continually trying to let people know what this means to them.

...

Is there a constant struggle because you guys would rather cover Sarah Palin saying something that Johnny Isakson says is nuts? Sure, there's always a struggle in that. But for 40 years this has been tough going because there are a group of people -- we hear them, we seem them now -- that are for the same status quo; they're for the special interests that are making billions and billions and trillions of dollars on a system that works well for them, but not for millions and millions of Americans -- they want to keep that.

Our challenge each and every day is to go out and make sure people understand that doing nothing costs the American people more in health care -- more in health care spending; it makes our budgetary problems worse; it causes people to lose their coverage and lose their doctor. And we can change all that.

But really, you can sense how much President Obama is playing defense just by listening to his comments at the town hall itself. Even before a friendly audience, he was offering, sometimes preemptively, clarifications of his positions. Consider these phrases, just a quick selection from the transcript:

"Let me just start by setting the record straight on a few things I've been hearing out here ...
"Let me just be specific about some things that I've been hearing lately that we just need to dispose of here ...
"The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately ...
"Well, first of all, another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow ...
"I don't want anybody saying somehow that I'm pulling the bait- and-switch here ...
"Can I just say this is another example of how the media ends up just completing distorting what's taken place ...