Like 2008 All Over Again: Obama Sells Health Care At Campaign Rally

March 19, 2010 9:01 a.m.

Pop quiz! When did Barack Obama say these things to an arena full of people?

“In just a few days a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote.”

“We are two days away from changing America.”

Hard to tell what’s from the 2008 presidential campaign and what’s from today’s health care rally, isn’t it? Obama this morning said the House health care reform vote Sunday is “historic” and cited the fight of presidents past to get health care done.“Make some phone calls and knock on some doors! We are going to make history,” Obama said at what could be his last presidential rally before Congress votes to send final health care reform legislation to his desk.

I spent nearly two years on the road with Obama (and the rest of the 2008 candidates) and today’s rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia made me feel as if I’d jumped in the Hot Tub Time Machine. I was practically waiting for Obama to offer his most prized stump line from fall 2008, which went something like this in Jacksonville, or Las Vegas, or Evansville, Indiana: “We are less than two days away from bringing about change in America.”

The crowd of an estimated 8,500 was boisterous, screaming their love for Obama, chanting his signature “Yes we can!” and “Fired up, ready to go.” People wore Obama t-shirts and as he entered the arena there were thousands of camera flashes clicking all at once. It was just like 2008 as he took the stage. The president knew it, talking several times about his historical campaign.

“Stand with me just like you did three years ago, and make some phone calls and knock on some doors,” Obama implored the screaming crowd of mostly young people in a key battleground state. At times, the cheers drowned out his words.

“We are going to make history. We are going to fix health care in America with your help,” Obama said.

Obama asked them to remember when he was down and out those three years ago – as staffers on hand remembered he’d held an event in this same arena on Feb. 2, 2007, eight days before officially declaring his candidacy to be president. (Flashback – see that rally here.) Weary White House staffers in recent days have admitted that the slow roll out of Democratic health care votes reminds them of when Obama was rolling out endorsements from superdelegates at the close of the long primary campaign.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, we didn’t have a lot of staff, nobody could pronounce my name,” Obama said today as reporters who tracked his move on the campaign trail filed from the bleachers just as they did for years.

The president claimed in his speech today he doesn’t know how the issue plays politically, even though his administration and Congressional Democrats say they think their polls numbers will increase once health care passes. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Obama insisted. “But here’s what I do know – this bill, this legislation is going to be enormously important for America’s future.”

But what’s key about today is that it’s an indicator of how Obama will campaign on health care once it’s law. He’s been telling Democrats recently that the success of his presidency rests on the measure passing, and you can expect a lot more events like this in the fall. It also sends a signal to wavering Democrats in swing states that the president can still bring in nearly 10,000 people on a weekday with little notice.

Follow our every health care development on our Countdown to Reform wire here.

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