PUBLIC OPINION….Atrios, predicting a veto of the SCHIP children’s healthcare bill followed by yet another dreary round of “Democrats can’t get anything done,” thinks Dems need a better media strategy:

I get the sense that Democrats craft these things behind closed doors, try to come up with palatable bipartisan agreements, and then show up on the teevee the day of the vote and announce that they passed it….The Republican version would’ve been to spend 6 months telling people that kids are GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW UNLESS THIS BILL PASSES and beating the Democrats into submission. That isn’t how our team works. Which is fine, if it achieves something. Not fine if it doesn’t.

That’s exactly right. Public opinion is key, and although there are conspicious exceptions to this general rule, conservatives are better at molding it than we are. It’s the same reason that opposition to the war ran into a wall this summer: Petraeus spent all of July and August conducting a quiet media blitzkrieg selling the surge, while the rest of us twiddled our thumbs and waited for his September testimony. But by September the deed was done. Support for the war, which was beginning to crater even among Republicans earlier this year, had been successfully shored up before Petraeus ever set foot in a hearing room. Public sentiment for the war may not have increased after Petraeus’s testimony, but its downward slide was halted, and that was enough. Mission accomplished.

Public opinion. Public opinion. Public opinion. That’s what matters, and we have to get better at changing it. The first step is to understand it.