High School Musical
President Obama’s healthcare town hall meeting at Portsmouth High School tomorrow afternoon is shaping up to be a real humdinger, especially since the citizen outrage angle has had additional time to percolate in the media, while the president has been on his trip to Mexico.   I’ve received emails from advocacy groups on both sides of the issue claiming that their supporters will be out in force at the venue.
Initial reporting on the event’s setup suggests that protesters will be restricted to a free speech area, which is actually quite convenient for groups wishing to shout at each other, and for the large media contingent eager to cover the attendant civic circus. My guess is that for the ticketed participants inside the venue, however, the presence of a sitting president and the Secret Service will greatly reduce the potential for the kind of chaos we’ve seen at Congressional town hall meetings around the country.  In fact, Obama’s recent town hall meetings, while sometimes boisterous, have been much more orderly affairs.
As I mentioned in my discussion of the issue earlier today, this particular town hall meeting is really about President Obama trying to regain control of the messaging on healthcare reform. Presidents often go public with these kinds of campaign-style events, when confronted with a difficult legislative sell on a particular policy issue.  The goal for the president is to make his best case directly to constituents, while projecting that interpersonal connection out to a national audience (and back to Washington) through favorable media coverage.
Given Obama’s popularity in New England, and New Hampshire’s tradition of deliberative democracy, it is no surprise that he has chosen to return here with the hope of regaining his political footing on healthcare reform.

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