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Obama agenda: Reactions to speech

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg conducted a focus group/dial test on President Obama's health-care speech with 50 independents in Denver, CO -- half who voted for Obama last fall and half who voted for John McCain. In a conference call with reporters to discuss the findings, Greenberg said that before the speech, 23 of these independents supported Obama's call for reform, 23 opposed it, and four were undecided. After the speech, the number who said they supported reform jumped from 23 to 33.

The Washington Post's Dan Balz: "It is rare for a presidency so young to have so much on the line. No single speech can create consensus on health-care legislation, and in that sense this was not the make-or-break moment described by some commentators. But Obama has staked his presidency on this issue, and his advisers knew it was long past time for him to assert himself in a more demonstrable way or risk seeing the entire enterprise slip away."

The New York Times' Nagourney says the speech "was an attempt by this still new president to display his authority to a Congress that had begun to question his fortitude, to show that he was as strong a political leader as he was a political candidate and to show that he was not — to use the shorthand of the day — another Jimmy Carter: professorial, aloof, a micromanager who perhaps was not ready to be the nation's chief executive... For nearly an hour, Mr. Obama spoke strongly and passionately, pausing only to acknowledge the repeated cheers from his audience as he made what appeared to be his clearest and most concise case yet on a complicated issue that had repeatedly defied his communications skills."

The Washington Times' analysis: "The true measure of whether the young president succeeded at his high-risk mission will be whether he can build a bipartisan coalition among diverse constituencies and pass a bill through Congress that has eluded presidents and Congress for decades before him."

The Washington Post's Tom Shales says Obama "came across like Jimmy Stewart in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington': a bright-eyed young idealist up against entrenched power, old ideas and obstructionism. It was also a chance for Obama to go on national television and look presidential again, asserting himself in ways that helped make up for the past few months of perceived defensiveness, of appearing to kowtow to other powers, and of seeming to do more following than leading."

More: "One heckler, Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, shouted out, 'You lie!' Again, the contrast worked to Obama's advantage; he looked and sounded calm and rational, though certainly assertive, while moblike voices railed defiantly against him."

The Hill's analysis: "The big question of the night was how Obama was going to address the public health insurance option, but he largely repeated what he has said for weeks: He supports it, but will sign a bill that does not have it."