In an unsurprising turn of events, conservative pollster Bill McInturff thinks Democrats should have ditched the public option some time ago. From CQ (subscription required):
Bill McInturff, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, a firm that works with many Republican lawmakers, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that Democrats “should have months ago jettisoned the public option.” Polling his firm released Thursday indicates that Democrats’ overhaul plans are nearly as unpopular now as former President Bill Clinton’s plan was in June 1994, shortly before Democrats then decided they could not pass it.
McInturff is known for conducting polling associated with the infamous “Harry and Louise” ads of 1994 that helped sink Clinton’s plan. His firm found that only 25 percent of the public supports Obama’s plan for an overhaul, while 37 percent oppose; in June 1994, a similar poll found nearly identical levels of support and opposition to Clinton’s plan. McInturff attributed much of the opposition to Obama’s plan to concern about the public option, which opponents say represents a “government take-over” of the health care system.
First of all, I’d be interested to see the specifics of the polling, because there hasn’t been any polling I’ve seen which suggests just 25 percent public support for “Obama’s plan” for health care reform (whatever that is). But more to the point, the thing to note here is that the causal mechanism McInturff explicitly cites is Republicans lying about health care reform. Simply put, nothing under consideration can really be rightly construed as a “government take-over” of health care. As presently constructed, the public option would allow people who qualify for the health care insurance exchange — which is to say nobody with employer coverage — to opt in to a public plan (which would exist alongside a number of private options). There’s just no basis for this belief that the government is going “come between you and your doctor.”
More importantly though, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that the lack of a public option would stop Republicans from lying about health care reform. A quick examination of the now infamous “death panels” debate should disabuse anyone of such a notion. What’s more, Chuck Grassley — who has succeeded in wringing compromise after compromise from Max Baucus, is now explicitly saying he doesn’t think there will be any compromise. Of course, this should not surprise anyone. It has been the stated goal of Republicans to kill reform for political gain; Republicans are going to reject out-of-hand any reform efforts that could plausibly be viewed as a “win” for Democrats.