Sorry Democrats, Obamacare is still electoral kryptonite

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President Barack Obama receives an update on Affordable Care Act in the Oval Office, April 1, 2014.

Article Highlights

  • Has the debate about Obamacare finally turned a political corner for Democrats?

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  • @marcthiessen Not many Republicans are likely to follow a “mend it, don’t end it” approach to Obamacare.

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  • @marcthiessen Softening opposition to Obamacare is not a path to electoral victory for the GOP in 2014.

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Has the debate about Obamacare finally turned a political corner for Democrats? Two recent events have caused much excitement on the left that perhaps it finally has.

First, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the number four ranking House Republican, told her hometown paper that Obamacare probably won’t be repealed and should be reformed within its current framework. And Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Allyson Schwartz spent $500,000 to air a new campaign ad declaring her support for Obamacare. In the ad, the camera pans across Schwartz working at her desk, amid framed photos of her with Obama (one visibly inscribed “Allyson, thanks for your leadership, Barack Obama”). Over soft music, Schwartz proudly declares, “I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act. . . . It’s something I’m proud of.”

A sign that Obama and Obamacare are no longer electoral kryptonite for Democrats?

Hardly.

Not many Republicans are likely to follow McMorris Rodgers’ lead in embracing a “mend it, don’t end it” approach to Obamacare. A recent poll found that independents are more likely to back an anti-Obamacare candidate by a 54-29 percent margin. Softening opposition to Obamacare is not a path to electoral victory for the GOP in 2014.

And, Schwartz’s new ad notwithstanding, embracing Obamacare isn’t a path to victory for Democrats. Schwartz is not the Democratic nominee for governor, or even the Democratic front-runner. She is trailing in the primary, far behind former state revenue secretary Tom Wolf, who has 33 percent of the vote compared for just 7 percent for Schwartz. Her ad is not a sign of newfound Democratic confidence in the president; it is a Hail Mary pass aimed winning the liberal base of her party in a Democratic primary.

When vulnerable Senate Democrats start running ads in which they openly declare “I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act. It’s something I’m proud of,” then you’ll know public opinion on Obamacare has turned a corner.

That is not happening. In Alaska, Sen. Mark Begich just released a new ad boasting how he fought “the Department of Interior, the EPA, NOAA, national Democrats and the White House” to allow oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Riding a snow machine across the frozen tundra, Begich stops, takes off his helmet and declares “I’m Mark Begich — I fought for five years to get the permits so we could drill under this ice. And we won. . . . Sooner or later, Washington will figure out that I don’t take no for an answer.”

In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu is similarly distancing herself from Obama. The embattled senator has a new ad up declaring that “the administration’s policies are simply wrong when it comes to oil and gas production to in this nation,” hitting Obama for his offshore drilling moratorium and “cheating” Lousiana out of oil royalties (“ will not rest until this injustice is fixed,” Landrieu thunders).

All this while Americans for Prosperity and other outside groups pummel these Democrats for their Obamacare support. If Obamacare were becoming more popular, these Democrats would be hitting back with ads defending their the president and his health-care law, rather than ads highlighting their opposition to Obama.

That is what the left is hoping they will soon do. At a recent press conference, Obama came out and declared, “This thing is working.” Now, goes the advice, it’s time for Democrats to do the same. As Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant in North Carolina, recently put it “Democrats need to start making the case for Obamacare. They all voted for it, they all own it, so they can’t get away from it. So they’d better start defending it.”

That advice calls to mind one of my favorite Far Side cartoons: A cat peers into a clothes dryer marked with a sign that reads “CAT FUD -->” while a dog hides beside the machine thinking, “Oh please, oh please. . . .”

So will Democrats take the bait, and decide it’s safe to start defending Obamacare?

The GOP is thinking: Oh please, oh please. . . .

 

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Marc A.
Thiessen

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