Next Gregory wanted to know if the Republicans have a plan for getting health coverage to more Americans. Gregory asked three questions trying to get some specifics, noting at one point: “The truth is, Republicans do not have a serious alternative to covering more Americans, do they?” Cantor said he disagreed, and continued with the standard Republican talking points. He mentioned “patient-controlled health care,” and focusing on “first and foremost, bringing down costs and adding to people’s choices and flexibility.” Then came Frank Luntz buzz words, with a new twist:

If we’re all really desirous of trying to deal with people who are in need and want to improve the healthcare future for this country, you, you can’t start with a Washington-controlled system. That’s the structure of Obamacare. It’s broad, sweeping federal mandates imposing the kind of health care that people should have instead of allowing people to choose for themselves and allow for the flexibility and choice.

Cantor never did discuss a specific plan for covering the uninsured, and Gregory’s time was up. Gregory can be forgiven if Cantor got the best of him toward the end of the interview when it veered into less controversial subjects like the president’s shift to the center and whether the tea party is here to stay. Maintaining that sort of pressure on a media-trained guest is tough. But it was a good workout for the next joust with Cantor.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.