Public attitude on Obamacare: Mend it, don’t end it
Despite the sudden rash of nervousness among Democratic lawmakers over the problems plaguing the rollout of Obamacare, the death of the Affordable Care Act is not on the horizon.
Alexander Burns and Katie Glueck assess the situation HERE:
A White House under siege. A signature policy initiative turning into an embarrassing public spectacle. Dissent within the president’s own party that threatens to turn into a full-blown revolt.
For Republicans, such a moment came in 2005, as the party faced a daunting midterm election under the shadow of the disastrous Iraq War and a presidency in the dumps. For Democrats, the fear now is that the Affordable Care Act’s clumsy rollout — complete with a botched enrollment website and a debunked presidential pledge that Americans could keep their existing insurance plans — could produce a similar rout at the ballot box, with candidates dragged down by President Barack Obama’s dropping job approval and dimming public perceptions of the law known as Obamacare.
On Wednesday, the administration announced that only 106,185 people had selected new health insurance policies through the Obamacare exchanges as of Nov. 2, falling below early White House hopes. And only a quarter of that figure stemmed from the HealthCare.gov website.
It’s utterly premature, Democrats insist, to assume that the ACA will be a millstone around the party’s neck in 2014. But going by the behavior of Democratic lawmakers, it’s plainly not too soon for the party to tackle this dilemma: how to create distance between a set of candidates and a president of the same party whose agenda is on the rocks.
The paradox for any party is this: Standing in lock step with an unpopular leader can only taint candidates in competitive races by association. But if too many candidates flee the president, it serves to amplify his unpopularity, with potentially deeper ramifications for the whole party.
So far, the Democratic approach to all the ACA bungling is to let a thousand Obamacare critics bloom. It’s not that Democratic candidates and officials are openly breaking ranks and calling for the law’s repeal — there’s still solid Democratic consensus that the ACA is mostly a good thing — but politicians across the party have claimed wide maneuvering room for themselves to wander away from the White House line and even directly rebuke the administration.
The political calculus is straightforward, Democrats say. Voters are uncomfortable with the ACA, but private polling shows they are receptive to a “mend it, don’t end it” message. If Democratic House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates can show they want to fix the law proactively, the party believes voters will forgive some bungling by the administration. And if some Democrats are inching away from the president in an awfully public fashion, lawmakers say they have felt little pressure from the White House and other party leaders to make the existing text of the ACA a political hill to fight and die on.
“This is not about loyalty to the White House. It’s about getting the health care law right for the American people,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch. “This is a situation where good implementation is good politics.”