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Health Care Reform Closing Arguments: White House, Activists, Labor Unions Eye The Finish Line

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With the Senate poised to cast historic votes on health care legislation, a host of activist groups, labor unions, and even the White House itself launched their closing arguments to ensure passage.

On Friday, five different groups released polling numbers, television advertisements, robocalls and fact-checking data in an effort to cushion health care reform from its critics.

The pro-reform organization Health Care For America Now released polling data targeting three swing Democratic votes: Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (La.). In each of those states, between 77 percent (Arkansas and Louisiana) and 80 percent (Nebraska) of voters believe their senators should allow legislation to have an up-or-down vote (i.e. not back a Republican filibuster), according to the results.

Moreover, in each of those states, a public health insurance option "that allows people to choose between their private insurance and a public plan," garnered majority support --- 51 percent in Arkansas, 56 percent in Nebraska and 53 percent in Louisiana.

While HCAN was taking the pulse of swing-state constituents, another organization was showing them their pulse lines. The progressive advocacy organization launched a television ad on Friday targeting Lincoln, as well as Republican Senator Olympia Snowe (ME), for pushing the so-called trigger-option, which would see a public plan come into existence only if certain economic conditions are met.

Depicting a patient's heart monitor flat-lining as the doctor "waits" for the go-ahead signal, a narrator declares: "Some in Congress want a bill that requires us to wait before a public option can be triggered. Haven't we waited long enough?" (To be fair, under Reid's proposal, the public plan would not start until 2014.)

Moderate Democrats in the Senate weren't the only ones being targeted. Another pro-reform group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, launched a robocall campaign on Friday thanking Majority Leader Harry Reid for putting a public option in the final language of the Senate's legislation.

"I'm very thankful that Senator Harry Reid has included a public health insurance option in his health care bill. He shocked the political world by being so bold on this issue," says Lee Slaughter, a nurse of 20-plus years, in the call.

Finally, not all the efforts were geared towards the Senate. Also on Friday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched a $1 million ad campaign providing cover and gratitude for Democratic House members who are being targeted by reform opponents for voting in favor of the House's legislation. The list includes: Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Baron Hill (D-Ind.), Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Virg.), Paul Hodes (D-NH), and Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.).

All told, the groups were emptying the proverbial tool shed in an effort to pull reform across the finish line -- using a mix of pressure and persuasion, shame and appreciation to corral the needed votes in both chambers of Congress. It's a testament to the legislative process (and the fundraising budgets of these groups) that ten months into the health care reform debate and the ad wars, polling data and robocalls have yet to cease.

The White House, too, is flexing its muscles, though more in the role of referee than political activist. Several "Reality Check" postings were put up on the White House blog Thursday night, calling out claims that reform will encourage abortions at school "sex clinics" and balloon the deficit.

"We are paying attention to all of the disinformation and distortions that the opponents of health insurance reform are pushing around on cable, blogs, viral emails, through their allies," explained on top administration aide. "We'll be posting responses from time to time to be sure the public gets the truth."

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