One thing I didn’t mention last night (and my pal Ezra Klein did this morning) is that the lack of a mandate in his health plan — and more to the point, his reaction to people pointing that out — may have caused him great political cost.

Cue John Heilemann, who wrote the article I linked to last night in New York Magazine:

But now two months have passed since Edwards dropped out—tempus fugit!—and still no endorsement. Why? According to a Democratic strategist unaligned with any campaign but with knowledge of the situation gleaned from all three camps, the answer is simple: Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

 If this is true, then I agree with Ezra — Sen. Obama isn’t half the politician he needed to be in this situation. If, in private, he still
insists that his plan offers universal coverage, he’s only kidding himself. It’s depressing that he continues to cling to that balderdash assertion.

The vast majority of health care policy analysts (including Ezra) say otherwise. To insist — particularly to John & Elizabeth Edwards — that it is universal is an insult to everyone’s intelligence, and we, as Obama supporters, shouldn’t kid ourselves otherwise.

Sen. Obama blew it. He needs to come up with a better way to talk to folks who are, at best, skeptical of his health plan, if he hopes to unite the party behind him.

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