Are Republicans Abandoning the Obamacare Issue? Doubtful

An ebb is not a capitulation.



In a bit of dubious cherry-picking, a new Bloomberg article concludes that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is losing its effectiveness as a political issue for Republicans and is diminishing as a major issue. How do we know the end is near-ish? Well, so many Americans are "benefiting from the law," theorizes Heidi Przybyla, that political ads are simply not doing the job anymore.

This news is somewhat unexpected—and unpersuasive—when you consider that a Kaiser Family Foundation poll recently found that only 15 percent of Americans believe Obamacare has directly helped them, whereas 28 percent say it has directly hurt them. (Fifty-six percent say it has had no effect on their lives.)

Slightly more convincingly, Przybyla offers this bit of evidence: "Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party's favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch."

But that's quite an extrapolation, as well—especially when you consider that in her very own story, Przybyla tells us GOP groups have plans to refocus on the ACA as soon as premium increases for 2015 are announced. As with any issue, the political impact of Obamacare is hitched to events surrounding the law. An ebb is not a capitulation. And there will be more Obamacare events. 

But even if there weren't, consider that a quarter of political ads running in North Carolina attack Obamacare specifically. This seems to suggest that it's still a comparatively "major issue." Let's put it this way: Is there any other law in the United States that eats up more political space?

Google tells me there isn't. When I use the search engine to wade through news stories regarding the various contested races mentioned in the Bloomberg piece, I find that Obamacare is ubiquitous among Republican candidates—in their stump speeches, in their interviews, on their websites and in their statements. Not so much the Democrats. In Colorado, for example, Republican Cory Gardner is running an ad right now that focuses exclusively on Obamacare and the story of his own family's canceled policies. And as Gardner points out, 335,000 people had their plans canceled in the state—a state where Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of voters oppose the ACA, with 68 percent of independents, 53 percent of women, and 61 percent of people younger than 30.

You know, perhaps focusing 50 percent of your ad dollars on the ACA isn't necessary anyway. It's rather amazing how little the electorate has moved on the issue. According to Kaiser, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. And among independents, 57 percent disapprove. Looks a lot like the way it's looked for years. Whether voters are interested in repealing the law or not, there is no other issue with higher disapproval rates. In my lifetime, I can't recall any domestic law that's been chewed over, litigated, debated, and used as a political hammer this intensely this long after passage.

As The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza pointed out a few months back, in New York Times/Kaiser polling on four Southern Senate races, voters were asked, "Is it possible you would ever vote for a candidate who does not share your views on the 2010 health care law, or is this issue so important that you would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with you?" In North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky, majorities said they would not.

The distress over the law is embedded into the debate. It was inevitable that Republicans would expand their attacks beyond Obamacare. With the economy, immigration, or energy—and the array of more customized themes that state races typically focus on—there seems to be plenty of fodder for battleground candidates. Yet the idea that Obamacare's potency as a Republican issue is on the verge of expiration is a lingering wish that will never come to pass. And if you've heard about the Obamacare retreat before, it's because it's nothing new. Politico led the way with a story in 2013, "GOP quietly backing away from Obamacare," and similar predictions of the pending surrender on the ACA go back years. Yet here we are.

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  1. Oh, you don’t need to convince me that the Republicans will RUN against Obamacare. I believe it. What I don’t believe is that, if/when they get both houses of Congress, they’ll do anything but a little minor window dressing at best.

    1. Well, its harder to repeal legislation than it is to ‘transform’/amend it.

      Window-dressing will be what is *possible*. and they could add up to be extremely significant.

      as we’ve seen with the ACA so far, the details that are most damaging (e.g. small business mandate?) have not even been implemented yet because the admin is aware that they would provoke even greater backlash

      ‘death via a thousand cuts’ is far more likely than any wholesale repeal of the law.

      1. Death by a thousand cuts = more complexity, more cost, more bureaucracy.

        So, yeah, I’m sure that’s Plan A. And Plan C, Plan B, etc.

  2. They must be on the same Journolist because AP had a very similar article today.

    As we’ve told Shreek and Tony many times – the proof is in the actions of Dems in contested seats. Are they loud and proud on their Obamacare vote, or are they hedging like crazy or downplaying it? We will see in the fall. And in November, we will see if they are rewarded or punished for their vote.

  3. ObamaCare is a beneficiary of the administration’s “dense pack” approach to scandal and administration generally.

    Have so freakin’ many scandals, screw-ups, failures, and calamities going all at the same time that its hard to concentrate on any of them, none of them seem unusual or unusually bad, and at the end of the day you basically get a pass on all of them.

    Goebbels had his Big Lie theory. Obama has his Big Fuckup theory. Both, apparently, are ways of turning the most outrageous wrongness into success.

    1. I don’t buy that at all. B.O. gets a pass because the MSM refuses to cover his flubs and scandals, and when it becomes impossible not to cover them they spin them in the most positive way for him, or blame the GOP somehow.

      Look at Bush’s second term — the media has no problem covering multiple negative stories about the president at the same time, so long as they don’t really-not-want to.

  4. “So many Americans are “benefiting from the law,” theorizes Heidi Przybyla, that political ads are simply not doing the job anymore.”

    If you say something enough times, maybe it becomes true!

    Jerry, just remember. It’s not a lie… if you believe it.

    Every time a journalist says ‘I don’t believe in ObamaCare’ there is a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.

  5. “So many Americans are “benefiting from the law,” theorizes Heidi Przybyla, that political ads are simply not doing the job anymore.”

    This is almost the exact opposite of reality. Has there been any law MORE touted by the media, the government and activist groups than the ACA? The idea that opposition to it is largely driven by political ads, and the glorious reality of it will overcome this dastardly disinformation campaign is delusional.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration had been better off keeping the thing on a low profile after passing it.

      Because by trying to promote how amazing it is, when that’s a bald face lie, they’re doing the Republicans’ job for them.

  6. Family Foundation poll recently found that only 15 percent of Americans believe Obamacare has directly helped them, whereas 28 percen

  7. Ironic Democrats wanted single payer or a public option and all we got was the Republican Heritage Foundation Romneycare plan.

    Both Romney and Gingrich endorced “Obama =Romneycare in 2009.Romney even took out a full page editorial encouraging Obama to take his Mass. plan nationally then lied about it.

    You would think republicans dont know their own party and cant use google for facts.

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