House Democrats are working desperately to come up with 216 votes to pass their $1 trillion health-care plan, perhaps as early as Saturday.
But even with a strategy to "deem" the plan passed without requiring Democrats to cast a roll -call vote, a victory rests on the ability of party leaders to convince many wavering members of their caucus.
Democrats scored a victory Wednesday when Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, flipped his "no" vote to a "yes" even though the bill does not create the single-payer health care system he desires. Kucinich made the announcement two days after President Obama invited him for a ride aboard Air Force One on a campaign swing to Ohio.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, a pro-life Democrat who was opposed to abortion funding language in the bill, changed his vote to a "yes" as well. The two additional votes in support of the bill were offset by an announcement by pro-life Democrat Jerry Costello, of Illinois, that he will vote against the measure.
But party leaders still have a long way to go, according to Democrats who have not made up their minds yet.
"There are a group of us in the genuinely undecided category until we see the fine print," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who has not made up his mind. Connolly said Democratic leaders have to persuade other factions, including anti-abortion members who don't like the language pertaining to abortion funding and those who oppose the idea of passing the Senate version of the health care bill because it includes special deals for some states and a tax on expensive insurance policies.
"I don't think they are there yet," Connolly said.
Asked how many more lawmakers Democratic leaders need to convince in order to pass the bill, he replied, "I would say it is not just five."
Democrats are bearing down on members like Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, and John Boccieri of Ohio, who voted against a House version in November.
Boccieri skipped Obama's rally in Ohio where Kucinich got the star treatment. Boccieri's Republican opponent, Jim Renacci, is airing a radio ad targeting the Democrat's swing vote status: "[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi needs John Boccieri to be the deciding vote," the ad proclaims.
Some have been willing to take the risk.
Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., said he decided to vote for the bill after talking to the president, who convinced him "this is our one and best opportunity" to pass a health overhaul. But the decision wasn't easy, Maffei said.
"My constituents are more divided on this issue than any other issue they face this year," he said.
Republicans, meanwhile, were pushing hard on the argument that the health plan would wreak havoc on the fragile economy. They pointed to a letter from more than 100 economists to Obama arguing against Democratic claims that the plan would create millions of jobs.
The economists, including Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon University and policy mavens from free market think tanks, said the $500 billion in new taxes and additional regulations in the plan "will eliminate jobs, reduce hours and wages, and limit future job creation."