CBS Early Show: Michelle Obama ‘Stealth Weapon’ In Health Care Debate

On Friday’s CBS Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante highlighted President Obama’s latest media blitz on health care reform and touted a new piece of the PR arsenal: "The President does have a new partner in his nonstop effort to sell health care, it’s the First Lady....Michelle Obama will be more like a stealth weapon in the battle for health care, giving it a softer touch."

Plante further explained the logic behind using the First Lady to promote ObamaCare: "With a favorable rating of around 70%, well above her husband’s, and the background of a hospital executive, Michelle Obama will counter balance her husband’s hard sell." A clip was played of Politico’s Nia-Malika Henderson exclaiming: "They feel like she can give a different voice, because as you can see, a lot of the folks out there are very partisan." Unlike Michelle Obama’s completely non-partisan approach.

Following Plante’s report, co-host Maggie Rodriguez spoke with Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer and asked about the First Lady’s potential impact: "I’d like to start by asking you about the President’s new weapon in health care reform, his wife....What do you think Mrs. Obama’s role should be here? How could she be an asset?" Schieffer argued: "Well, people like her, every poll shows that. And I think president’s wives can kind of soften the debate, take the hard edge off of it."

Schieffer did go on to explain: "Is she going to make a big difference, is going to be the one that tips the balance toward health care? I think the answer to that is no." But added: "I think the other part of it is she’s very likeable, people like to see her, and like chicken soup, I think it can’t hurt." Rodriguez agreed with that keen analysis: "Exactly right."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: First Lady Michelle Obama joins the battle over health care reform as the President gets set for an all-out media blitz.

BARACK OBAMA: It’s about what kind of country you want to be.

7:01AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: But first, President Obama is embarking on a full-out media blitz for health care reform this weekend and he’s getting some help from a very familiar face. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante explains. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Julie. The President does have a new partner in his nonstop effort to sell health care, it’s the First Lady. Ah, you might ask ‘like Hillary Clinton?’ Well, no, that’s not exactly what the White House has in mind. Michelle Obama will be more like a stealth weapon in the battle for health care, giving it a softer touch as she did at this farmer’s market near the White House Thursday.

MICHELLE OBAMA: It has truly inspired me and the White House staff to look for opportunities to put the topic of healthy eating right on the table and at the forefront of health care discussions.

PLANTE: With a favorable rating of around 70%, well above her husband’s, and the background of a hospital executive, Michelle Obama will counter balance her husband’s hard sell.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON [POLITICO]: They feel like she can give a different voice, because as you can see, a lot of the folks out there are very partisan.

PLANTE: The First Lady’s debut coincides with the President’s media blitz this weekend. He’s pushing health care reform on five talk shows this Sunday. That’ll be a presidential first, adding to the 66 TV appearances and 157 speeches in which he’s already campaigned for reform plan. Political scientist Larry Sabato says the President’s media blitz makes sense.

LARRY SABATO: It is a fractured media environment and presidents, like everyone else, have a difficult time piercing the public consciousness.

PLANTE: But is the President running the risk of over exposure?

SABATO: Common sense would tell you that if a president is on all the time, if it’s all Obama all the time, then probably people are going to tune out some of the message.

PLANTE: And some of them will never even see it. The President is skipping Fox News this coming Sunday. But even if some people do tune out, the White House figures the President is the best salesman, they’re going to keep him out there, keep him at it, and we’ll see what happens. Julie – Maggie, I’m sorry. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: We shall. Bill Plante, thank you, Bill. One of the programs the President will appear on this Sunday is Face the Nation, which of course is moderated by CBS News chief White House correspondent – chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: I’d like to start by asking you about the President’s new weapon in health care reform, his wife. Like Bill said, I immediately thought back to Hillary Clinton, but it is different, in that back then Mrs. Clinton was really spearheading the effort. What do you think Mrs. Obama’s role should be here? How could she be an asset?

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, people like her, every poll shows that. And I think president’s wives can kind of soften the debate, take the hard edge off of it. Is she going to make a big difference, is going to be the one that tips the balance toward health care? I think the answer to that is no. But I think the other part of it is she’s very likeable, people like to see her, and like chicken soup, I think it can’t hurt.

RODRIGUEZ: Exactly right. What about the President’s media blitz? He gets criticized for going on TV and going on the radio too much, but the latest poll numbers show that when he gave the speech to the joint session, it did stop the slide, a little bit, of disapproval on his efforts on this. Now it’s at 48% in favor of the way he’s handling this. Do you think this is a good thing?

SCHIEFFER: Well, it goes back to what Bill Plante just said. The administration is convinced he really is the best salesman that they have and they want to put him out there. They think he can sell it if anyone can sell it. The other part is, Maggie, he hasn’t made the sale yet. Even though the polls showed a little more favorablity toward the plan after he made that speech, a majority of people are still worried about that it’s going to cost more, especially to the middle class. They’re not convinced that it’s going to do what he keeps arguing that it’s going to do. So maybe he’s been out there too much, maybe he hasn’t, but there’s still some selling to be done if he’s going to get something here.

RODRIGUEZ: And maybe he has to change the pitch a little bit. We’ll see.

SCHIEFFER: Yep.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Bob Schieffer, thank you for your time.

SCHIEFFER: You bet, Maggie.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC