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Update: The President Was In My Area Wednesday

Yep, Northeast Tennessee/Southwest Virginia hosted the President as he came to push health care Wednesday. Now this area went heavily for McCain in 2008, as this map shows (click on Tennessee and Vrginia to see the county-by-county breakdown, then scroll over the counties to see the percentages of Obama vs. McCain. The relevant counties here are Sullivan, TN and Washington, VA). So why would Obama even bother coming into enemy territory to push his plan? Well, even here, believe it or not, he’s been able to chose a, probably, sympathetic audience.

You see, he’s appeared at a Kroger grocery store in Bristol, VA. Kroger’s employees are union, and the folks employed at this store are represented by the UFCW Local 400. As this article points out, only those with tickets could get in to see and hear Obama, and only Kroger employees got tickets. Some town hall meeting, eh? The UFCW, like most unions, favors the health plan and donates to Democrats’ campaigns:

UFCW is a strong health care reform advocate and backs cost controls in the health insurance industry as well as Obama’s call for a public health insurance option.

The union, in a statement on its Web site (www.ufcw.org), said it does not support taxing health benefits.

UFCW also recently questioned Walmart’s announced support for “fair and broad” health insurance coverage mandates on employers.

“As a company that has had a significant role in fueling this nation’s health care crisis, I have serious questions about Walmart’s commitment to playing a constructive role in fashioning reform that, in fact, provides quality affordable care for all,” UFCW President Joseph Hansen said in a June 30 letter sent to Obama.

The union’s political action committee gave more than $1.8 million to House and Senate Democratic candidates in the 2008 federal election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Meanwhile, from just south of the state line, Tennessee has TennCare, something that Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN01) is trying to convince his Democrat colleagues in Congress is a failed public single-payer plan that they, and Obama, should consider.

When TennCare took over Tennessee’s Medicaid program in 1994, Roe said it was billed as a managed care solution that would keep health care costs down.

Instead, said Roe, the program was rich with its benefits and co-pays, and businesses dropped private coverage and let their employees get on TennCare.

TennCare went from a $2.5 billion program to an $8 billion-plus program hampered by litigation and on the verge of threatening the state’s fiscal health, according to international consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

There’s more from Roe here. But, with a Democratic majority in Congress, Roe isn’t finding much of an audience. He notes:

…Congressional Democrats who are in the majority and have the votes to pass health care reform aren’t listening to him.

“There’s no two-way street (of exchanging information). … That’s been bothersome to me,” Roe said.

Welcome to Washington, Congressman. Roe is currently serving his first term as TN-01′s Representative to Congress, and I daresay his opposition to this and his vote against Cap and Tax Trade hasn’t exactly endeared him to Speaker Pelosi. Not to be deterred, however, Roe has teamed up with Marsha Blackburn, a former Tennessee state Senator and fellow Congressperson (R-TN-07), to try and get out the message that TennCare offers an important message for healthcare reform advocates. Of that effort he says:

“It’s not just for the Blue Dogs (the fiscally conservative congressional Democrats),” Roe said of the effort with Blackburn. “It’s for the American people and the other side. We have not addressed cost in this (health care reform) bill at all.”

I wish you the best, Phil and Marsha, as Obama speaks to yet another captive audience just north of your district and tells them everything will be fine.

Update section:

Here’s 2 videos of the exchange at Kroger. In the first, there’s some soundbites of Obama talking about health care. If you thought there would be something other than what he’s said before, well, sorry:

The second captures some protestors, unfortunately it’s from behind the crowd, so yiu don’t get to see what’s on their signs, but the boos are plentiful as the motorcade goes past:

This one is a streaming RealVideo file, and you’ll need the free RealPlayer to see it:

http://wcybstream.wcyb.tv:8080/ramgen/video/we6pm.rm

There at about 5 minutes in to the newscast you can see the protestors Justin_Case mentions in his comment below.

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