ABC's George Stephanopoulos is worried enough about Tuesday's Massachusetts Senate race to be thinking about a "Plan B" for Democratic plans to push ObamaCare onto an increasingly unwilling public.
"You have top Democrats like Barney Frank of Massachusetts who said flatly if Martha Coakley, the Democrat, loses, health care is dead. So what kind of planning is the White House doing right now for backup? What's their Plan B?" Stephanopoulos fretted to White House correspondent Jake Tapper on Monday's Good Morning America.
Tapper replied that the current "Plan B" is for the House leadership to force an up or down vote on the Senate version of health care as it was passed Christmas eve, obviating the need for a new Senate vote that could be filibustered. But "House Speaker Pelosi has told the White House she does not think the votes are there," Tapper informed Stephanopoulos.
In a set-up piece - which ran under the headline "Democratic Panic: Will GOP Win Massachusetts Senate Race? - reporter John Berman reported on Coakley's "Curt Schilling is a Yankee fan" gaffe, and said national Democrats were blaming "an uneven campaign" for the unexpected closeness of the race. But both Stephanopoulos and Tapper noted that while the race has become a referendum on ObamaCare, the President refused to make a pitch for his health care plan during his appearance in Boston on Sunday. "He talked about his whole agenda, talked about moving forward, not backward, but didn't talk about health care specifically," Stephanopoulos noted.
MRC's Mike Sargent reviewed the 7:08am ET segments from the January 18 Good Morning America:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, to a major political task for President Obama. He was in Boston Sunday in a last-minute scramble to help save Ted Kennedy's Senate seat for the Democrats. The Republican candidate is surging the polls and if he wins the special election tomorrow, it could sink the President's health care plan. John Berman has more, and joins us from Boston. Good morning, John.
JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Robin. Well, this is about the last place you'd ever expect to see as a kind of battleground state. Democrats outnumber Republicans here 3 to 1. Ted Kennedy held the Senate seat here for 46 years. Yet, it is here that Democrats and President Obama find themselves in the fight for their political lives.
BERMAN: The names on the ballot are Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown, but when President Obama took the stage here, you could tell he's smack in the middle of this fight.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (SUNDAY): If you were fired up in the last election, I need you more fired up in this election.
BERMAN: The Republican Scott Brown, a lawyer and former model, has created huge buzz here - tapping into voter discontent over the economy.
SCOTT BROWN: I'm Scott Brown, I'm from Wrentham, I drive a truck and I'm asking for your vote.
BERMAN: If Brown wins, he would be the 41st Republican senator, enough to hold a filibuster and, most importantly, kill the President's health care plan.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC COMMENTATOR: There's no question the President's domestic agenda hangs in the balance.
BERMAN: Which is why the President took a swipe at the Republican candidate's truck.
OBAMA: I'd think hard and long about getting in that truck with Martha's opponent. It might not take you where you want to go.
BERMAN: Money and resources have been pouring in: Karl Rove telling his Twitter followers to phone-bank; John McCain asking for help, and Democratic groups making more than 500,000 voter contacts on Saturday alone. Both sides are trying to eke out any advantage, though some Republicans suggest the mere closeness of this race spells trouble for Democrats.
TUCKER CARLSON, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Whether Coakley wins or loses, the message is the same, health care - this health care package is death for candidates.
BERMAN: National Democrats are shocked the race seems this close, blaming in part an uneven campaign. Martha Coakley told a radio station former Red Sox World Series hero Curt Schilling was a Yankees' fan.
MARTHA COAKLEY: Another Yankee fan.
DAN REA: Schilling?
REA: Curt Schilling a Yankee fan?
BERMAN, HOLDING UP THE BOSTON HERALD: And this is one of the local papers today, a picture of Barack Obama and Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, saying "David vs. Goliath." And that's how Republicans are trying to cast the race here, George.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, John Berman, thanks very much. For more on this, let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Jake Tapper. Jake, that headline is exactly what I was thinking when I saw President Obama in Boston yesterday. Unusual for a President to step into a special election like this. Last place he wanted to be, but really had no choice.
JAKE TAPPER: That's exactly right, George. No Democratic president wants to have to go save a Democratic candidate in Massachusetts of all places. A few observations from his appearance yesterday. First of all, there was almost an attempt to distance himself from the election. He said he didn't know much about the Republican candidate, and then President Obama went into detail about how Scott Brown, the Republican, voted with Republicans in the legislature there 96% of the time - obviously, he knows a lot more about the race than he wanted to let on.
And two, there was an acknowledgment of voter anger. That's something you didn't hear from President Obama a year ago. And third, he did not talk directly about health care reform, even though last week he told House Democrats that he'd be willing to go campaign coast to coast on the issue. He didn't really talk about it yesterday in Massachusetts at all.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It was striking, he talked about his whole agenda, talked about moving forward, not backward, but didn't talk about health care specifically. But of course, that's what's on everybody's mind right now. You have top Democrats like Barney Frank of Massachusetts who said flatly if Martha Coakley, the Democrat, loses, health care is dead. So what kind of planning is the White House doing right now for backup? What's their Plan B?
TAPPER: They would have the House vote directly on the bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve. Now, House Speaker Pelosi has told the White House she does not think the votes are there. But the argument the White House will make, assuming Scott Brown wins, is look House Democrats, it's either the Senate bill or nothing. You can't let the insurance company have a victory here, the insurance companies. But that's going to be a heavy lift for House Speaker Pelosi.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, I think you're exactly right. Jake Tapper, thanks very much.
-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.