Presidential carrots

PRESIDENTIAL CARROTS…. With the fight over health care reform nearly over, a group of about 40 House Democrats will decide whether the effort succeeds or fails. The right’s efforts to encourage these Dems to join Republicans in killing the reform proposal are pretty straightforward. But the push among supporters features two parallel angles.

We talked about the first earlier: unions like the SEIU and grassroots organizations like MoveOn.org are playing hardball, letting wavering Dems know their future in Democratic politics is in jeopardy if they make the wrong choice.

But while those sticks have been laid on the table, President Obama is still relying on carrots.

Mr. Obama is making daily telephone calls to Democrats who supported the health care bill last year, but have yet to decide how they intend to vote this time. He is also focusing on those who opposed the legislation, including Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, who said the measure did not go far enough. […]

The White House has signaled to lawmakers that assistance for midterm elections — for example, presidential visits and fund-raisers — will be prioritized for those who support the bill.

The president is doing more, apparently, than just working the phones. In at least one case, Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), who voted against reform in November, was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one meeting with Obama. It’s probably safe to assume there will be quite a few similar meetings over the next few days.

It’s the key reason the president delayed his scheduled trip to Asia — he needs to be twisting some arms at just the right moment. Will his efforts pay off? We’ll know soon enough.

But this presidential lobbying highlights the underlying reality of why so many lawmakers have identified themselves as “undecided” over the last week or so — they want leverage. By withholding support, they have it.