Tom Daschle’s deep political connections and interest in health care wonkery made him a prime candidate for the health care job. He really wanted to reform the system and he had the political ability and connections to make it happen. Nobody questioned Daschle’s commitment to reform, but some commentators and lawmakers were still surprised about his decision to step aside. Here is a sampling of the live cable coverage:
SUSAN PAGE: I think not inevitable. I think Tom Daschle probably could have gotten confirmed….In fact, I think you saw support from a fair number of Republican senators. [MSNBC, 2/3/2008]
CHRIS CILLIZZA:If we had been doing this interview at 9:00 this morning or 8:30 this morning, I would have said he’s probably going to make it. He’s going to come out a little bruised but he’ll make it. [MSNBC, 2/3/2008]
TOMMY THOMPSON: Oh I think he would have [been confirmed] – I think there is no question that whoever Obama nominates they are going to get confirmed because of the overwhelming superiority of numbers that the democrats have. [Fox News, 2/3/2008]
ED HENRY: I can tell you, just in the last couple of hours, I’ve spoken to some of Tom Daschle’s confidants, and they were insisting he was going to make this…This is a big shocker at the White House. [CNN, 2/3/2008]
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) also expressed disappointment. “I wish Tom Daschle had not decided to withdraw his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services,” Kerry said in an issued statement. “This was no ordinary appointment and today is not a good day for the cause of health care reform.”
Daschle seemed to believe that his tax controversy distracted from health reform, but critical media coverage may have also influenced his decision. As Andrea Mitchell points out, “Daschle specifically cited the New York Times–which I take to mean this morning’s editorial calling for his nomination to be withdrawn. Surely it wasn’t the only factor, but it was probably a non-trivial one.”
Moreover, a source close to Daschle says “he didn’t have the stomach for the fight.” “The double-barreled combination of a blistering New York Times editorial and a front-page story raising questions about President Obama’s commitment to ethics reform in Washington convinced Daschle he had to go.”
Daschle’s choice to step down certainly places more pressure on Obama to use the presidential bully pulpit and convince the American people that the economy demands health reform.
Still, the need for health reform may eclipse this set back. With the right team, we can still make it happen.
The Politico: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) just told reporters that Tom Daschle had enough votes to be confirmed, calling his withdrawal ‘tragic.’”
,Marc Ambinder: Daschle is all South Dakota reserve, even in private. He is very sensitive to public opinion, and his public image has taken a major beating….he was sensitive to the public condemnation, and he was hurt by it.
,Possible replacements for Daschle: Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Tennessee Gov. Ted Bredesen, Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Former NIH Director Howard Varmus.