An Obama-Krugman Détente?

One of the strange subplots to the Democratic primary race has been the ongoing feud between the Obama campaign and liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Mr. Krugman has argued that Sen. Obama’s healthcare plan is too incremental, and more generally, that the senator’s intention of working with Republicans and their allies, rather than taking them on, is naive and doomed to failure.

But could there be a thaw in the relationship? A few days ago, Sen. Obama told Tim Russert that his healthcare plan might involve a penalty for those who didn’t get insurance, in order to deter the problem of free-riders and get closer to universality — something Mr. Krugman had been calling for. In response, the Times-man sounded optimistic.

That’s good news for Sen. Obama. It’s not that Mr. Krugman, or any other opinion columnist, has the power to deliver many votes. But he is an important opinion-shaper for the liberal wing of the Democratic party, and ongoing beef would not have been in the senator’s interest.