Is Obama Risking Political Capital With Health Care?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Karl Rove on the health care battle.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, Karl.


VAN SUSTEREN: Karl, after the president's speech last night, do you have some sort of sense of the strategy that President Obama and the Democrats are pursuing to get health care reform passed?

ROVE: Well, I think there are two ways of looking at it. I personally walked away thinking he was signaling, I'm going to go with Democrats only. I think what he was signaling was, I'm going to give the rhetorical flourishes to the Republicans, but I'm really going to jam this bill through. I took that from his unnecessary and ofttimes gratuitous partisanship in his remarks, that you don't go in there and call the people who you're trying to get their votes of as liars, and you know, deliberate deceivers who don't want to do anything, which is what he essentially did in two parts of his speech last night.

Other people took a different view of it. They said that, you know, his -- his outreach to Republicans was authentic and that he was indicating a willingness to move on the public option. I didn't -- I didn't take that. But I recognize that -- you know, I reread the speech again this morning a couple of times, and you could conceivably walk away with that. I don't. I think he's going with a Democrat-only strategy, jam it through. The vice president today said, We're going to have a bill by Thanksgiving, and I think it was a "My way or the highway," I'm going to give you a couple of fig leafs, and if you want to come along, fine, but if you don't, I'm jamming this thing through.

When you are taking something as big as this, you're in difficulty if you don't have a significant majority of the American people in favor of it, or if you've got a narrow majority, you've got to have your people more enthusiastic about the change you want than the opponents are about opposing it. And this time around, we don't have that. This thing is upside down. That is to say, that the president's plan is less popular, you know, it draws more opposition than it does support. And then the people who feel strongly in opposition to it are up here, and the people who feel strongly in favor of it are down here, particularly among the group that are going to be voting next year in the election.

In off-year elections, seniors, who make up about one out of every six voters, eligible voters, make up about close to almost one out of every three voters in an off-year election. In 1994, the generic ballot before the election, which Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House, was 45 Republican, 43 Democrat. In 2006, when the Democrats took back the House, it was 50 Democrat, 43 Republican. Today, it is 51 Republican, 43 Democrat in the latest generic ballot. So if that doesn't improve before the election, that could mean a lot of bad things for 70 House Democrats whose districts were carried by John McCain and/or George W. Bush.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if they push it through on a nuclear option, if the push it through straight on -- you know, on Democrats, no Republicans going along, or maybe picking off one or two -- but if they push it through, if it's a -- if it turns out to be a great bill, he and the Democrats are a hero. If it's a thud, he and the Democrats are villains for years to come.

ROVE: Yes. Well, and remember, we won't know the complete answer to that for a number of years, but we do know the following. The taxes and Medicare cuts begin immediately. Under HR 3200, they begin in year one and -- year one and your two, which are the two years before the election (INAUDIBLE) year 2010, 2011. Say the bill passes this year, 2010, 2011, there won't be any new programs. It'll be simply new revenue, new tax increases, and Medicare cuts.

We have 10.6 million on Medicare Advantage. There'll be a 20 percent cut in the government support of Medicare Advantage plans. Every expert I've talked to says that means Medicare Advantage programs are going away, which means 10.6 million seniors are going to lose their supplemental coverage that they now have under Medicare Advantage. That ain't going to be a happy sight before the 2010 congressional elections. That's about 24,000 seniors on average per congressional district, 24,300 seniors per congressional district. That's a -- that's a bad number of people to have irritated that they've now lost their coverage because in year one, their program gets cut 20 percent.


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