Barack Obama brought his health-care reform campaign to Raleigh just as polls suggest support is slipping for reform.
As always, Washington and the media are poised for a rerun of history. They see the story in terms of the death of Clinton Care in 1994.
But the story could turn out different this time.
For one thing, Obama may get something the Clintons never got: an actual bill that passes a congressional committee. In both houses, compromises are being hashed out – with even some Republican support in the Senate.
For another thing, Obama has never wedded himself – as the Clintons did – to a 1,000-page plus bill that sets out a specific, comprehensive reworking of the entire health-care system.
For a final thing, Obama – throughout his campaign and, so far, his administration – has proven to be much savvier than the Clintons.
He is cooler and more patient. He does not get stampeded. And he stays focused.
My friend Joyce Fitzpatrick points out that Obama fits the digital age. Not for him the old politics of focusing on just one or two big things. He multitasks. He views the multiple challenges of recovery, financial regulation, health-care reform and racial reconciliation not as distractions, but as opportunities.
He also is positioning his opponents – both Republicans and interest groups – as the status quo. In politics, change always beats the status quo.
Health-care reform is not a Big Box program like Social Security, Medicare or the prescription drug benefit.
Instead, it is going to be a set of incremental steps.
Obama is setting up himself to say: We’ve made a big step in the right direction. But we have a lot left to do.
That could be his campaign slogan in 2012.