Bill Ritter carries Barack Obama's water on Meet the Press

In the wake of President Barack Obama's town hall in Grand Junction on Saturday, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter got some spotlight time on the next day's edition of Meet the Press, claiming that Obama's mediocre poll numbers relating to his handling of the healthcare issue are primarily due to "partisan wrangling," which may be "too nice a word" (or maybe two) for what's really going on. It wasn't a long appearance: Ritter essentially got the chance to answer just two questions. But he at least got another opportunity to underscore Colorado's key status in national politics these days. Watch his on-camera moment above, and read a transcript of the segment after the jump.

MR. GREGORY: Let me take a break here, because I mentioned we were going to have some outside perspectives in this debate, and I want to bring in Governor Bill Ritter, the governor, of course, of Colorado. He was with the president who was doing a town hall last evening in Grand Junction, Colorado, and, Governor, I want to ask you about the president's effectiveness right now, and whether he is winning this argument. That's certainly been a motivation for him being around the country doing his own town halls.

This is the Gallup Poll on the president's handling of the health care crisis: Approval at 43 percent, disapproval at 49 percent. Those are the similar numbers that President Clinton had back in 1993- 1994. What do you think he is doing wrong?

GOV. RITTER: Well, I don't know that you can blame the president for this. I think a good part of this has to do how you opened the show, David. It's sort of partisan wrangling, and maybe that's even too nice of a word for what's been happening with these town hall meetings. They are capturing the attention. Americans listen to where the conflict is, where the swords are crossed, but they are not, I think, getting all of the information about this.

My time yesterday with the president and my time at the town hall meeting leads me to believe that people who, even that are wondering about it but hear him speak about it, hear him speak about what this really does entail, they are impressed by how -- I think by his vision for how we go forward with respect to health care reform. It was a very good town hall meeting. He took questions from people who, I would say, disagreed with him coming into it. Maybe they disagreed with him as they all left, but I would also say that for those folks who are sort of on the bubble, they have to respect that we need to do this, and that he has a vision for how to do it.

MR. GREGORY: Governor Ritter, what do you hear most? Where the Rocky Mountain West is a key area for independent voters in the country, the president successfully courted and won their vote in the election last year. But it's those independents who have a real concern about the role of government, about the mounting debt that could be associated with this health care plan. What are you hearing?

GOV. RITTER: I think that's the right point, David. What I hear is this: That the health care system is broken. So while there is this concern about a mounting deficit, there is also this real concern about the fact that the system is broken; that people view it as unsustainable; that people don't view their health plan as something that's really secure for them; they could lose it tomorrow if their employer takes it away or if they lose their job. They want it fixed. So they want it fixed, but they also are concerned about federal spending, they're concerned about the deficit, and they want to know -- can you reform health care and, at the same time, do what's necessary to control federal spending or to bring down the deficit? The president actually addressed this yesterday in this town hall meeting in a very effective way.

MR. GREGORY: All right, Governor Ritter from Colorado, thanks, as always. It's always good to talk to you.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts