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WH plans for last-ditch effort to save health care

Susan Walsh / AP

Hail Mary, or Hindenburg? Either way, the White House recognizes it faces long odds to rescue the health-care bill as senators head home for the Fourth.

Axios' Jonathan Swan ferreted out the intriguing news that the White House has reached out to former Trump campaign officials in hopes of ginning up repeal-and-replace rallies in Maine to pressure Sen. Susan Collins, and Nevada to try to retrieve Sen. Dean Heller.

Both are long shots. Three Republican defections kill the bill, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also looks firmly opposed.

The White House has engaged its political office — led by former Christie aide Bill Stepien — to put localized pressure on Collins and Heller, including appeals from Republican mayors and legislators, and perhaps the rallies.

Sources inside the administration are deeply skeptical that this will work.

  • Behind the curtain: Stepien and HHS Secretary Tom Price joined a Thursday strategy meeting at the White House, led by congressional liaison Marc Short. The mood was bleak. Swan is told Price was the most optimistic person in the room.
  • The meeting's message: They weren't making much progress. Heller, Collins and Paul are the three biggest problems.
  • The day after: Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are looking at fallback options. Trump tweeted yesterday: "If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!"

Sound smart: Momentum matters — in sports, in love and in politics. Momentum is all against the GOP.

  • Maybe Rs are lucky ... Paul Krugman column in N.Y. Times: "Losing health coverage is a nightmare, especially if you're older, have health problems and/or lack the financial resources to cope if illness strikes. And since Americans with those characteristics are precisely the people this legislation effectively targets, tens of millions would soon find themselves living this nightmare."
  • Steve Brill's "9 ways to really fix Obamacare": "Tort reform should be included."