Top Democrat predicts August healthcare bump in the polls

The third-ranking House Democrat on Tuesday touted the party’s efforts to sell the healthcare law, predicting voters would see “a big difference” from the opposition-dominated town halls of last summer.

“We’re going to go out to the American people and let them know exactly what’s in the bill,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters after the House Democratic caucus's weekly meeting.

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“I think you’re going to see a big difference this August than last August,” Clyburn, the Democratic whip, said, referring to the heated town hall meetings that nearly derailed the healthcare push in 2009.

With polls showing a majority of Americans don’t support the healthcare bill enacted last month, Democrats have launched a public relations campaign to educate voters about its benefits before the midterm elections in November.

Small business advocates joined Democrats at the caucus meeting. Clyburn appeared with a South Carolina radio host and an advocate with the Small Business Majority, a group that backed the healthcare bill. The congressman said Democrats would need to rely on allies to help educate the public, particularly because a large portion of the country will probably hear only criticism about the bill from lawmakers that opposed it in Congress.

“That’s why it’s important to bring along third-party validators” who can go into districts whose representatives voted against the bill, Clyburn said.

He said he planned to meet with constituents in small groups rather than large town halls, but he said he was not necessarily advising his colleagues to avoid the town hall format, which conservatives successfully used to publicize voter anger about the Democratic bill last year.