The name of the game is “keepaway.” Keep Congress in Washington and away from the folks back home. It’s a key strategy for Congress’ liberal leadership, which has announced the new fall schedule for meetings and votes on Capitol Hill.

The original official plan was to adjourn by Oct. 30. Now the target is Thanksgiving but the expectation is Christmas, with maybe a one-week break somewhere along the way.

By keeping Congress in session and away from angry voters, leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi hope to plead, pressure and cajole enough votes to enact a massive health care bill. There’s less competition and interference from everyday people when elected officials are in Fortress Washington.

President Obama’s big speech was targeted more to Democrats in Congress than to the general public. He needed to buy time and probably did so by claiming he has a plan to solve the problems without adding a dime to the deficit.

He’s still given no specifics on how that might magically be accomplished. But the very claim that a plan is in the works was enough to stall fellow Democrats so they will respectfully wait for details rather than jumping ship.

That provides the time for hardball politics, trading votes for pet projects or legislation, or just plain arm-twisting. A Congress that hears more from party leaders and less from the folks back home is easier to lead down the big government path.

A majority of Americans told pollsters before the speech that they oppose Obama’s plan—but so what? It is Representatives and Senators who have direct votes to decide the fate of national health care; the rest of us do not. We will be stuck with whatever Congress passes. A bad bill could not be reversed even if incumbents are voted out next year and the majority changes hands. Because Obama is in office until 2013 he can veto any repeal efforts.

Liberal leaders almost lost it during the August recess, dominated by the enormous turnout of those who oppose the legislation. But the more time elected officials spend in Washington and the less time they spend at home, the more likely it is that Obama and his allies can win.

And if that impacts the 2010 elections? They’ll think about that tomorrow. November 2014 is 14 months away—a lifetime in politics.