Obama Backing Away From Public Option - Or Is He? What's The Game Plan Now?

I've been reading the coverage about the public option remarks yesterday, and I think I understand the likely scenario now.

First of all, don't panic. Believe it or not, Sebelius is right: The public option is not the only way to get accountability into the health care system. And a rose by any other name smells as sweet.

That said, President Obama is still claiming to back the public option.

Linda Douglass (comm director for White House Office of Health Reform): "Nothing has changed,” said Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform. “The president has always said that what is essential is that health insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and it must increase choice and competition in the health insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals.”

More:

Jim Messina (White House deputy chief of staff): "Nothing has changed. POTUS [President of the United States] has always said that what is essential is that health insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and increase choice and competition. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals."

But those quotes yesterday weren't accidental; that isn't how this game is played. So this quote from Chuck Todd seems right:

The White House has been hinting at this for weeks if not months. When Kent Conrad … came out with that co-op idea, I can tell you, insiders at the White House said: ‘Boy, this is going to gain a lot of traction.’ And those conservative Democrats -- this is not about getting a bipartisan bill out of the Senate, Lester. This is about getting folks like Ben Nelson in Nebraska; Joe Lieberman in Connecticut; Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor of Arkansas -- getting them on board. And a full-fledged public option was making them hesitant. Co-op will be the option that probably gets ‘em done. And that’s why the White House is allowing themselves wiggle room.

Seems to me this is more of a re-branding than an actual surrender. These senators are hesitant about the public option but will almost certainly embrace something that sounds more voter friendly.

Remember, the person to watch is Howard Dean. I know he's explained why co-ops don't work, and I think the newest version will be called a "co-op" - but that doesn't mean it works the same way.

So I'm waiting to see what Dr. Dean thinks of the finished product.

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