GOP Tries To Keep Up With Obama's TV Appearances

Republican leaders followed President Obama's television interviews on five Sunday morning shows. They didn't seem to be budging in their opposition to Democratic health care proposals.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

NPR's Cokie Roberts has been listening in and joins us for some analysis, as she does most Monday mornings. Cokie, Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How much difference does the president make for himself when he roadblocks the airwaves…

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: …like this, appears everywhere?

ROBERTS: Well, the real question is - is he moving voters so that they'll move members of Congress on - on the health care debate, and of course so far there's no real sign of that, but I think it probably doesn't hurt. And it was especially shrewd of him to go on Univision to get to those Hispanic voters who have been - who were so key to his election. Look, I - I listened to him on all the other networks other than Univision. And he was out there looking smart and reasonable and flexible. He said the same thing over and over again, but it was very measured, very understanding of voter concern, not ready to pick any fights. And I think it just reminds voters of what they liked about him in the first place.

He also was thoughtful. He wanted to have a thoughtful conversation about the role of government. But, again, I just don't think that that moves voters to pressure their members of Congress to go along with the president on health care, which is such a big confusing, difficult subject anyway.

The president did show Congress, however, that he's ready to do whatever he can to pass the bill. And he said that he felt he had not had not been breaking through on health care and that that was humbling. So, I think that's all worth something.

But meanwhile, Steve, some of his answers on Afghanistan and talk about fear of mission (unintelligible), that could concern some other members of Congress.

INSKEEP: And some Republican members of Congress who appeared after the president didn't seem to be terribly moved on health care.

ROBERTS: No. They kept going back to their talking points. We should just start over again and scrap all the Democratic plans, come up with a bipartisan plan. They claim that for all of his outreach, that some of the leaders haven't been to the White House for a good long time. But they also say that while they firmly continue to disagree with the Democrats on health care, that they support the U.S. role in Afghanistan and the president's statements there.

Of course, that's likely to make the Democratic left even more weary about what's going on in that war, if they think it's something the Republicans support. Look, the truth is right now the Republicans are feeling pretty good. They are looking at 2010, and they think it looks good for them. They are making a lot of the same noises that they were making in 1993 about how the Democratic leaders have pursued a strategy that didn't make a lot of sense by ramming through a stimulus package with only Democratic votes, and then in the House of Representatives, getting that big energy bill through that's gotten a lot of Democrats in trouble at home.

And even before they get to 2010, of course, there are governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey in just a few weeks. And the Democrats are holding both of those seats. They might pull out both of those seats again, but they're having to work really, really hard at it.

INSKEEP: And, of course, they're having to work to hold the governor's chair in New York - that's not an election that comes until 2010 - but already the president seems to be involved in making some moves to change the Democratic candidate.

ROBERTS: Well, yes, there were reports over the weekend that the White House had pressured New York Governor David Patterson to drop out of the race for governor in his state for next year. And, interestingly, no one on either side - the White House or Governor Patterson - is denying that report. Right now, Patterson insists that he's still in the race but his numbers are just awful.

And it is remarkable that the White House should get involved in a way that makes it so public. Both Patterson and his chief opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, are supposed to be with the president at an event tonight. The odd thing to me was that the Republican chairman, Michael Steele, said on CBS yesterday that he found it, quote, "stunning" that the White House would try to get only one of two African-American governors out of the race.

Now, Steele's African-American himself, but for him to bring up the issue of race in the New York campaign at the same time there's a conversation going on about it, that President Obama was repeatedly asked about yesterday, just seems like an odd attempt to keep it going.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Cokie Roberts on this Monday morning.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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