Responding to the Progressive Caucus's letter and demand for a meeting on the public option, President Obama had a conference call with the leaders of the Caucus yesterday, and will meet face-to-face with them prior to Wednesday's speech.
As for the conference call:
A variety of reports suggest that, during a conference call this afternoon, President Obama probed House progressives to see just how flexible their demands are.
A source familiar with the call tells TPM that Obama asked the group to define their red line when they talk about a "robust public option."
NBC reports that Obama reminded the group that they enjoy the security of representing safely Democratic districts.
According to Mike Viqueira on MSNBC, Obama told the progressives in congress on a conference call this morning that on health care, they need to worry about their fellow members in districts that voted with McCain in '08. I guess he figures that those conservative districts are going to be appeased by some sort of "trigger" or a plan without the public option and that those guys in tough districts will be rewarded for making that happen.
I think that's about as delusional as the teabaggers, frankly. If those McCain voters are upset about health care reform, the only thing that will appease them is total defeat. . . .
I think Obama has an exactly backward reading of the situation and Digby has it exactly right. This subject has swirled around the blogosphere this week, mostly following from a post from Ezra, in which he posits that the Progressives can't "beat the Blue Dogs at their own game."
Chris had the best and most succinct answer to why this reading is wrong:
Klein's central premise is that Progressives have no leverage to make Blue Dogs want to vote for good legislation, since opposing Democrats is popular in their districts. However, Blue Dogs have leverage over Progressives, since Progressives don't want Democrats to lose seats.
The reason I disagree with Klein is fairly simple: if no health care legislation passes, and Democrats lose seats as a result, Blue Dogs are the people who will lose the seats, not Progressives. Even if Klein is correct and Democrats lose a bunch of seats because Progressives blocked it, Blue Dogs are actually the ones who will bear the brunt of those losses. As such, Blue Dogs have more to lose if health care fails to pass than Progressives.
He's absolutely right, and you only need to look at the polling on the public option to see that. As Markos said in that post
Opposing the public option is electoral poison in every region of the country except the South, while both Democrats and Independents are willing to punish opponents of the public option at the ballot box.
Democrats have a national electoral mandate, they have public opinion on their side, they have dominant majorities in both chambers of Congress, and they have the White House.
The Blue Dogs' seats are on the line if they don't support this hugely popular reform, whether it's Kentucky, or Nevada or Jim Cooper's district in Tennessee.
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