President Trump invited Senate Republicans to the White House to chat about healthcare. Reportedly, he plans to make the pitch for repealing Obamacare over lunch like it's some sort of real estate deal — perhaps a mid-level Manhattan condo, the kind he once bought and sold over sips of iced tea and bites of cobb salad.
Except, no it's not. As a matter of scale, healthcare makes up 1/6 of the economy. As a matter of salesmanship, Trump doesn't seem to have the stock of influence necessary to close any sort of deal.
This president can entertain. But at this point, he cannot whip votes. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, provide a perfect case in point.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can only lose two votes if any healthcare bill is to succeed. But within hours of a last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, Capito and Murkowski had already pledged their opposition. While obstruction from inside the GOP conference has become commonplace, this is remarkable.
Both senators come from deep red states, electorates that voted overwhelmingly for the president. Trump won Murkowski's Alaska by 14 percentage points and Trump absolutely conquered West Virginia by a staggering 41 points.
Boarding the bus to the White House, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tweeted that he was eager "to find the magic to get to ‘yes.'" But if the president can't sway moderate Republicans from deep red states, like Capito and Murkowski, no amount of black political magic will save the repeal effort.
It wasn't supposed to be this way, though. Not long ago, members of Congress shuddered in fear at the idea of being called out by the president. A single tweet, it was rumored, could end an entire congressional career.
But that was all bluster.
Reforming healthcare is much more difficult than flipping condos, apparently. At the end of today's meeting, Senate Republicans shouldn't expect more than a nice catered lunch.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.