[Posted by Karl]
The public… divides about evenly — 51 percent in favor, 47 percent against — on the question of whether people should be required to have health insurance, a central element of the plans under consideration.
But it is the public option that has become the major point of contention, with support for the government creation of an insurance plan that would compete with private insurers stabilizing in the survey after dipping last month. Now, 55 percent say they like the idea, but the notion continues to attract intense objection: If that single provision were removed, opposition to the overall package drops by six percentage points, according to the poll.
Without the public option, 50 percent back the rest of the proposed changes; a still sizable 42 percent are opposed. Independents divide 45-45 on a package without the government-sponsored insurance option, while they are largely negative on the entire set of proposals (40 percent support and 52 percent oppose). Republican opposition also fades 20 points under this scenario.
The decision to back away from the provision might hurt Obama among his base, but not dramatically so, as 88 percent of liberal Democrats support the reform plan as is, 81 percent without the public option.
This is why even the New York Times has started breaking the bad news for a government-run insurance plan to its readership. Of course, people like Pres. Obama and Sen. Tom Harkin have to keep pumping hot air into their leaky balloon, even as the mushy middle from Maine (Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) backs away from it. After all, that loss of lefty support not only made the poll numbers look terrible at the end of August, but also encompasses the nutroots demographic they need to keep energized on the healthcare issue and beyond.
Perhaps more important, re-animating the Left’s pet proposal is a continuation of the public option – individual mandate two-step. The numbers from the WaPo poll show how thin support for an individual mandate is (with more at the link just provided) — and the mandate is necessary to a government takeover of the US healthcare system. If the focus was on the mandate — which would likely increase waiting times and insurance costs (backed with hefty fines administered by the IRS) — it would not be surprising for the poll numbers to slide back to where they were in 2008, when a majority of Democratic primary voters were opposed to a mandate to buy health care.
The new development may be that the two-step in motion here is designed as a bait-and-switch job against the Left as well as the Right. The latest Obama strategy seems to be to lead the Left on with talk of the public option, and present them with a fait accompli of health insurance reform without a public plan.