From NBC's Ron Allen
PORTLAND, Maine -- "It's Only Been a Week…."
President Obama got a lot of laughs with that line, as he sarcastically went after one of his favorite targets, "the pundits," and all the back and forth about the new health-care law -- much of that commentary about how the public does not support the new law. The "only a week," line was part of a riff now being repeated by the president about how after he signed the new law, the predictions of Armageddon, and "end of freedom as we know it," never materialized. In fact, Obama says, "It turned out to be a pretty nice day." More laughter.
The president seemed to be enjoying himself now that health-care reform has become law. Some of the folks who keep up with him every day, I don't, say his mood appears noticeably lighter. He's won. He's less burdened. But he's still out here campaigning.
The fact of the matter is, the country has debated health-care reform more than a week. It took a year of and some creative and aggressive political moves down the stretch to pass the president's signature domestic initiative. Imagine the narrative had it failed. And a week after it's become law, the President still feels the need to essentially sell health care to an apparently skeptical, or perhaps only confused country, that still reacts more negatively than positively in various polls. Polls the President may dismiss publicly, but that his aides no doubt pay attention to privately.
The Maine event was before a very friendly audience. The crowds outside were quite vocal, Obama critics and supporters alike. Maybe because the president hadn't been to Maine since the campaign -- perhaps because the public argument about health care, that got really rowdy, is far from finished.
The administration's small business administrator, Mainer Karen Mills, introduced the president and kicked things off with a homespun feel. From then on, it was the President in campaign mode, introducing several Mainers in the audience who he said would be immediate beneficiaries of the new health-care law, a small business owner eligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of insuring employees, a widow who lost her husband and her retirement savings paying for medical care, because they hit a lifetime insurance payment cap during his illness.
The president laid out a list of immediate benefits, as he had before -- and as he probably will again. At the end of the day, there still seems to be a huge disconnect in the country. While the administration proclaims a historic victory decades in the making, the public seems, at best, unsure and, at worst, not convinced.
That dynamic has endured longer than a week.