But it only took a few minutes to realize I was mistaken. Obama’s speech tonight is an idea whose time has come and gone. He has clearly lost momentum and his personal mojo on this issue. And in the coming days, it will be increasingly evident that tonight will yield no lasting impact on the outcome of health reform in this country, for three reasons.
The wrong audience
First, the president has made tonight more about a political calculation than a personal appeal to those who elected him. Primetime addresses are geared toward two audiences — the one in the House chamber, and the one at home in the living room. All week, Washington insiders and White House aides stated privately House and Senate Democrats needed this pep talk to get them focused again on the big elements. He’s chosen to completely ignore that second, more powerful audience called the American voter. This speech tonight is more about getting Democrats on board just long enough to ram this bill through with one final head of steam. In 1993, Clinton’s articulate healthcare speech created a political euphoria that lasted all of four days, and he still lost. Obama’s era of good feeling promises to last less than that.
The wrong policy
The healthcare honeymoon following tonight will be brief, because the White House has completely underestimated Americans’ disdain for this initiative. Yes, they support “reforming the system” in the abstract. But this is no longer an obscure issue. Citizens attended these town halls throughout August armed with facts, serious questions based on pages of the bill they themselves had dog-eared. One Republican chief of staff said recently that participants at his member's town hall questioned his boss for four hours on one provision alone. You can’t coach that sort of passion, folks. This isn’t the product of direct mail or robo-calls. These individuals are numerous and educated, and for that reason, Obama’s focus tonight on “specifics” surrounding his insistence for a public option under the guise of “more competition” will fall on cynical, defiant ears. Obama had the chance to steer his messages early in this effort, before August. It’s too late to push the reset button with Americans tonight.
The wrong party
Lastly, Obama’s insistence that he pass this measure with only Democratic votes will cause him more heartburn than he can stomach. There is a huge intra-party divide right now between the Progressives and Blue Dogs over the plan’s costs, among other things. Tonight’s speech can’t possibly assuage those concerns, because there’s nothing Obama can say that will immediately lower this plan’s price tag. That means the coming days will open a new front in this campaign — a potentially bloody civil war between Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) liberal wing and the more moderate Blue Dogs whom Obama helped get elected through Rahm Emanuel’s anybody-but-a-Republican electoral strategy in 2008. Politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. And by choosing to eliminate virtually 45 percent of the entire House and Senate chamber, Obama will need a lot more than a stellar speech to secure the votes he needs.

Williams can be heard nightly on Sirius/XM Power 169 from 9 to 10 p.m. EST.

Visit www.armstrongwilliams.com .