If conventional wisdom is right, President Obama’s ambitious plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system is on life support.

But conventional wisdom is frequently wrong.

In today’s New York Times, reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg offers a more optimistic analysis.

“While the month of August clearly knocked the White House back on its heels, as Congressional town hall-style meetings exposed Americans’ unease with an overhaul, the uproar does not seem to have greatly altered public opinion or substantially weakened Democrats’ resolve,” she says.

Tonight at 8, Obama will take his fight to the American people when he addresses a joint session of Congress – the most important speech of his young presidency.

Obama on Tuesday met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss the speech. Reid was quoted in the Washington Post as saying Obama “did not give us a dress rehearsal,” but that he would seek to “reenergize the way to do health-care reform” and clear up “ridiculous falsehoods” repeated at hundreds of town hall meetings.

Will Obama come out fighting, as some liberals want, or will he signal a willingness to deal?

What to watch: The fate of Obama’s reform efforts may rest in his willingness to bend on the government-run, or public, insurance option. Some Democrats say they won’t sign a bill without it. Most Republicans say they won’t sign a bill that includes it. Both sides will be listening for subtle hints tonight.

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