Please, Republicans, Run Against Obamacare This Year and We’ll See You in November

Anyone who tells you the GOP is a lock for holding onto the House of Representatives while taking back the Senate in the midterms doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Why? Because it’s April. The election isn’t for another seven months. That’s a huge block of time, especially knowing how the speed of online media has accelerated news cycles and shortened voter attention spans.

I’m old enough to remember way back in October when Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) disastrous filibuster and the subsequent government shutdown were the inciting incidents that would surely hand over control of the House to the Democrats. Online and traditional media were abuzz with predictions of a narrow edge for the Democrats in the midterms.

And then, within days, everything went to hell. Health and Human Services flummoxed the roll-out of Healthcare.gov and a late-October shitstorm landed on President Obama’s head due to his “if you like your insurance, you can keep it” line.

Control of Congress, at least according to the very serious cable news and Sunday morning talkers, shifted wildly within a very small window of time, but today we’re supposed to believe Mitch McConnell is staring at his sleestak-ish reflection in the mirror and repeating to himself, “Hi there, handsome. You look like the next Majority Leader. Why yes, I do!”

Not so fast. There continues to be one major wild card.

The Republican Party has committed itself to making the Affordable Care Act the centerpiece of its midterm strategy.

Here’s Star Wars cantina alien and RNC chairman Reince Priebus on Friday:

“I don’t think there’s any serious observer that believes Democrats can take the House, and the Senate is slipping away from them,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters on a conference call Friday. “And that’s because Americans are hurting from this law.”

Generally speaking, no one’s really “hurting.” This is Priebus trying spread the myth that Obamacare is destroying jobs (it’s not), bankrupting average Americans (it’s not) and stealing money from Grandma’s Medicare checks (it’s definitely not). They figure if they can continue to roll out their conga-line of Obamacare myths, most of which are untrue, they can keep up the ruse through and including Election Day.

The only problem? They’re setting their strategy based on events from October and earlier when the ACA was much more unstable. As of midnight last night, surveys show that around 9.5 million Americans are now covered by insurance policies via the Affordable Care Act (other surveys show even more). That’s well beyond the seven million enrollee goal the administration was shooting for last year.

There’s no way of knowing whether every new enrollee is registered to vote or, if they are, whether they plan to turn out in the Fall but, for what it’s worth, in 2010 around 90 million ballots were cast. The number of new ACA enrollees are the equivalent of 10 percent of the votes cast four years ago. If the GOP wants to monkey around with what could amount to a not insignificant number of voters, they can feel free, but speaking for myself, I’d be willing to use my body as a human shield against any politician who seeks to repeal the law and take away my policy. Suffice to day, I intend to vote against anyone who even hedges on whether he or she supports the GOP repeal effort. I’m probably not alone.

Now let’s combine the newly insured enrollees with the broader poll numbers. A poll released yesterday by ABC News and The Washington Post showed a significant rebound in overall support for the law. A full 49 percent now favor the law, bolstered by increased Democratic favorability. 48 percent oppose the law. Meanwhile, 49 percent oppose the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace the law. 47 percent favor it. Sure, neither of these numbers are overwhelmingly positive, but numbers for the ACA have been gradually improving and there’s nothing on the horizon which could slow that trend. Either way, soft opposition and narrow margins don’t seem to be the sturdiest bedrock upon which to build a long-term electoral strategy. So please, Mr. Priebus, keep going.

Furthermore, if the Democrats — and this is a big “if” for the often PR-challenged Democrats — can make a case for the various aspects of the law rather than an overall pitch for it in broad terms, support for the ACA could turn out to be even more robust. As we’ve discussed here several times before, the various top-shelf benefits within the law each enjoy supermajority support… among Republicans.

–In a 2012 poll, 80 percent of Republicans — yes, Republicans — like the idea of health insurance marketplaces, also known as “exchanges.”

–Likewise, 57 percent of Republicans like the idea of the government helping to pay the cost of premiums via insurance subsidies.

–54 percent of Republicans like the employer mandate — the same mandate which the congressioanl Republicans almost universally oppose.

–78 percent of Republicans support the ban on denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

–29 percent of Republicans think Obamacare “doesn’t go far enough.”

The only aspect of Obamacare that Republican voters dislike is the individual mandate. But I’m sure they’d feel differently if they were informed that Republicans invented the mandate. Richard Nixon, in his 1974 “Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan,” proposed to make it mandatory for businesses to provide health insurance for all full-time employees. In 1989, a document called “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans” was drafted by Stuart Butler. In it, Butler proposed the idea of an individual mandate. I should note that Butler was a Distinguished Fellow and Director for the Center for Policy Innovation at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In the early 1990s, Republicans such as Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Richard Lugar and Alan Simpson proposed a counter-measure to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare proposal. The GOP legislation contained an individual mandate and government subsidies.

Again, if the Democrats can appeal to voters based on each of the very popular line items in the law, they might even be able to swing a few moderate, open-minded Republicans (yes, they exist), and especially those Republicans who happen to have ACA coverage (yes, they exist, too). At the same time, there’s seven months to carpet bomb swing districts with all of the Obamacare success stories such as, you know, my success story. That’s more than enough time, and there’s more than enough material.

This is all to suggest that the Democrats can absolutely meet the Republicans eye-to-eye on Obamacare rather than spinelessly running away from the law. There’s plenty of ammunition, 9.5 million Americans with new policies, along with strengthening poll numbers from which to draw support. If Mr. Priebus wants to make Obamacare The Issue for 2014, bring it on. The Democrats should absolutely stick it to him and make the GOP sorry it bothered. Who knows whether this will change the make-up of Congress or how the numbers will stack up. It’s still way too early to tell. But it’s a good bet the Republicans are making a classic strategic blunder — basing their fortunes upon the diminishing returns of the same old Obamacare myths and demagoguery.

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  • Barry__S

    Get ready for Shellacking round 2

    • TVonthePorch

      2012 style…?

  • Tort Master

    When the media let Republicans get away with real scandals like not Extending Medicaid or Voter Fraud, it will be tough sledding for Democrats to get the message out. I have thought that the law will be a big winner in the end, but as you note, the Republicans have stacked all their chips on ObamaCare.
    And yet, if the media had, during the last two or three years, exchanged one informative comment about ObamaCare for every fourth or fifth comment that went something like this, “The Administration has failed to get the message out about ObamaCare,” we would have gotten the message out about ObamaCare.
    I wanted to finally add this: Has Sixty Minutes or Dateline or anyone like that done a good, hard-hitting piece about Republican Governors refusing to Expand Medicaid or signing Voter ID laws? By not Expanding Medicaid, Republicans are actually going to kill people. By enacting self-admittedly baseless Voter ID laws, Republicans are violating foundational constitutional principles. If the media won’t report on that….

  • Jason E

    I triple dog dare them to run against it!

  • Victor_the_Crab

    All that being said, it sure wouldn’t hurt the Democrats to dust off the ground game battleplan that worked so successfully in 2012, slap on the Obamacare Works bumpersticker, and hit the gas pedal hard for the upcoming midterm elections. Anything less of an effort, and Nate Silver’s predictions of the Republicans holding the House and taking the Senate will come true.

  • Schneibster

    A great deal of it is going to depend upon discrediting the Great Big Right Wing Lie Machine.

  • ruth crocker

    So sorry go to OT, but – Glenn Greenwald has been scooped! you must read this hilarious, er nefarious, piece on the latest NSA revelations. It seems Lawfare got hold of some Snowden docs Greenwald hasn’t seen yet, just in time to drop this bombshell on April 1. Enjoy! http://www.lawfareblog.com/2014/04/exclusive-nsa-program-can-target-thoughts-of-millions-of-targets-thousands-of-americans/

    • Tort Master

      Excellent! I went and read it, and will now start referring to “MINDPRISM” any chance I get. ; )

  • http://www.dlancystreet.com reginahny

    I agree that all the dire predictions are premature, and we keep being told: it’s unprecedented for the party of a sitting president to do a, b and c…” So let’s do unprecedented, doom and gloom is just another way to suppress votes. The precedent that we need to knock out is Dems not voting — the Dem platforms have WAY more support. IMO, Dems need to get on the talking point bandwagon — enough with the nuance. I love nuance, and I hate Luntzian talking points but the public does not do nuance. That ship has sailed along with awful public education. Harvard study found states which don’t expand Medicaid will cause up to 17,000 unnecessary deaths. Medicaid recipients are primarily children and the elderly. The message is: your governor kills children and the elderly. Not: Obamacare is pretty good, but has some problems and we could fix them and blah blah blah. My $.02

    • alwaysthink

      Completely agree. The GOP causing 17,000 unnecessary deaths needs to be shouted out everywhere.

      Let the GOP argue against that all they want, but then our message gets out as they argue our points.

      • Tort Master

        And Republican Governors can opt out of Medicaid Expansion at any time! There is no reason not to cover your sick and dying constituents, forcing them to show up as untreatable-emergency room patients. It doesn’t have to cost their state a nickle.
        It is one nasty Tea Party GOP purity test, and the Tea Party Governors have made the calculation that thousands of lives are not worth losing their purity.

    • Tort Master

      Totally agree with this, reginahny! Great comment. Republicans would just as soon you died.

  • swift_4

    I think the biggest reason things are going to swing against the Democrats is simply that midterms swing against the party holding the Presidency. People who identify with the Democrats get complacent. People who identify with the Republicans are angry. That’s all it takes.

    • Tort Master

      That’s how it works historically, and Democrats are historically bad mid-term voters. On the other hand, there’s nothing in history akin to an organization like OFA jumping big into a mid-term cycle. OFA is already up and running in my email box, and even the local South Carolina unit (yes, it does exist) is working hard right now. On top of that, unions can see what’s coming with people like Walker in Wisconsin. This is a big election for them as well. All of that gives me some real hope. Plus, in the debates, a couple of the stupidest Republicans will talk about choice again….

  • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

    My message to waffling Democrats is that the Republicans are going to do their level best to hang you with it no matter what you say, so you might as well embrace it and run it right back down their throats.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    But I’m sure they’d feel differently if they were informed that Republicans invented the mandate.

    No, they wouldn’t. I’ve had more conversations than I can count where the only response was that no Republican had voted for it, therefore it was a purely Democrat idea. Forget Nixon, forget the Heritage Foundation, forget Dole, forget the HEART Act of 1993, forget Romneycare, forget Newt Gingrich publicly endorsing an individual mandate as recently as 2006. “No Republican voted for it,” period, full stop, end of discussion.

    This is how dense you have to be, apparently, to live in the paracosm. I can’t help going back to that conversation I had with a person who insisted that discrimination against LGBT people was already illegal under the federal Civil Rights Act (Title VII), and kept pointing to an Executive Order establishing the EEOC’s internal employment policy as “proof.” It’s literally like talking to a brick wall.

    Something else occurred to me recently. The ACA’s purpose, inter alia, is to require insurers to start giving you more for your money. In order to believe all these “horror stories” about people who used to have full, comprehensive, irrevocable coverage that cost $2 a month with no deductible that was “cancelled,” and they are now “forced” to buy bare-bones coverage for $9,000 a month with a $280,000 deductible, all “because of Obamacare,” you’d have to actually believe that between insurers and the government, the insurers are the good guys who are on your side and looking out for you. Oh, sure, insurers would just love to sell you a policy that covers everything and costs nothing, but the big bad mean nasty government is “forcing” them to give you less and charge you more. You’d have to be seriously mentally ill to believe that.

    • aceshigh

      Great post.

    • mellowjohn

      ” You’d have to be seriously mentally ill to believe that.”
      they’re republicans. what do you expect?

    • MrDHalen

      “No, they wouldn’t.” Exactly!!!

      It’s not a mistake or voting against their own interest. Republicans who vote GOP, know exactly what they are getting and what they want. I’m done pretending there is some noble cause they seek, because there is none. Greed and hate fill the GOP. Full stop!

    • essar1

      Exactly. When it comes to the current crop of Regressives, and tin foil hat radio, their world as they know it only started existing when Obama first got elected. Their bubble will always be there. This is especially true with ACA. That Heritage puppet in Michigan who insisted that the facts could not be true regarding how much she’ll save. It just does not matter to this crowd what the facts are.

  • ChrisAndersen

    At this point I don’t know if Democrats could swing more than 1-2% of the vote with a positive campaign on the ACA. But in a close race 1-2% can make a huge difference.

    But the even more important point is that the Democrat’s can’t avoid running on the ACA. If they do anything short of a full-throated campaign in favor if it they will get crushed. Because to many voters the ACA and the Democratic party are the same thing. So any Democrat who thinks they can avoid it will look scared, and scared candidates don’t get (re-)elected.

  • ruth crocker

    It’s like someone duct-taped the mouths of every elected democrat and shoved them in the trunk of their car. why haven’t they been bragging about ACA since 2010? How is providing access to health care to 15-20 million previously uninsured people, fighting to extend unemployment, fighting to minimize the cuts to food stamps, fighting to reform immigration, and NOT shutting down the government a losing hand? Can we find some of Teddy Kennedy’s hair and clone him so we can have some loud and proud liberals again?

    • aceshigh

      “How is providing access to health care to 15-20 million previously uninsured people…”

      This is AMERICA. We HATE poor people. We LIKE hurting and humiliating them. It’s an American pastime.

      What, you think Democrats would actually be proud of providing services to “those people”?

  • Treading_Water

    You say that over 9 million Americans are now covered through Obamacare, but if you look at my new site, UnskewTheMath.com, you can see that with “facts” and “statistics” that I have carefully excavated from my nether regions that the number is actually 9 million grandmothers that have been sent to FEMA death camps, 9 million mothers who have lost their ability to make any choices for their children, and 9 million voters who actually considered voting for Rmoney, making Rmoney the actual UnSkewed president of these Unskewed States.

    • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

      I foresee a big future for you, supplanting Nate Silver’s 538.com!

    • petesh
  • trgahan

    My biggest concern over the coming mid-terms is that anything less than a Democratic take back of the House and retaining the Senate…the GOP wins a major victory. Regardless of turnout and overall votes cast for which party, the GOP holding onto what it has will only embolden it to continue to rule in the minority through obstruction as it waits for its base to turn over to the next generation.

    Last midterms I remember real political analysts (not paid hacks) seeing the success of the Great Tea Party Freak Out practically a full year ahead of midterms and nothing over the next year changed the results.

  • aceshigh

    “This is all to suggest that the Democrats can absolutely meet the Republicans eye-to-eye on Obamacare…”

    Bwahahaha…c’mon, Bob. Have you been in cryosleep for the last two decades?

    The Democrats WILL run away from Obamacare (they already are), and they WILL lose the Senate. All of your statistics and facts mean nothing unless the corporate media accurate report them to the public, which they’re not.

    So basically, we’re screwed.

  • Henry_Moody

    I’ve been screaming this for months. “If you run away from it, you’ll lose.”

    Not only is there a lot to crow about, there’s also…and this is actually, I believe, slightly more important…the angle of “My opponent wants to take away _______. My opponent wants to put insurance companies back in charge.”

    Expect to see more ads like this. (Or, I HOPE SO.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrxbF52mH-Y