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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The GOP's Obamacare Problem

Anti-Obamacare protesters
It's being called the relaunch of But the fact that 100,000 people signed up in October -- while the headlines were filled with stories about how the website wasn't working -- suggests that "relaunch" might not be the most accurate description. However, one aspect that's never actually gotten off the ground before was the effort to get Americans to sign up in large numbers. Since the website was hampered by capacity problems, an awareness campaign would've been counterproductive. In fact, until recently, the administration was discouraging organizations from running recruitment campaigns of their own.

That's about to change.

Politico: President Barack Obama will launch a coordinated campaign Tuesday by the White House, congressional Democrats and their outside allies to return attention to why the Affordable Care Act passed in the first place.

After two months of intense coverage of the botched rollout, the president will host a White House event kicking off a three-week drive to refocus the public on the law’s benefits, senior administration officials told POLITICO.

The White House will take the lead in emphasizing a different benefit each day until the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for Jan. 1 coverage. The daily message will be amplified through press events and social media by Democratic members of Congress, the Democratic National Committee, congressional campaign committees and advocacy organizations, officials said.


And the Obamacare "trainwreck" that (according to pundits) dooms their 2014 prospects? Democrats are planning to run on it, not from it.

"Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill say that in order to get back  on offense on Obamacare, they have to draw a two-sided picture: Democrats  delivering benefits on one side, and Republicans trying to deny them on the  other," the report goes on. "That, one party operative said, is what polling says will help them win."

Of course, Republicans have given up on repealing the Affordable Care Act, but that's not something they're able to admit. The failure of the government shutdown to produce anything at all for Republicans has created a waves of anger and fingerpointing, resulting in destructive primary challenges across the country. One longtime Republican operative, Richard Viguerie, predicted that the GOP primaries will be an "absolute bloodbath."

"We gotta give up on Obamacare!" will not be a winning message during Tea Party-driven bloodbath. They'll have to try to out-crazy each other on the issue. That's a real problem for them in the general election. Since Republicans have no alternative to Obamacare, they wind up advocating the unsustainable pre-ACA status quo by default. And it may be that the only thing more unpopular than the reformed healthcare system is the unreformed one. Republicans would be better off putting this issue behind them. In reality, they have -- but reality doesn't play with the base, so they're forced to pretend that they haven't.

Greg Sargent argues that "folks are overlooking the possibility that no matter how unpopular the law, the Republican stance on health care may prove a liability, too. The basic Dem gamble is that disapproval of Obamacare does not automatically translate into zero sum political gains for Republicans, and that voters will grasp that one side is trying to solve our health care problems, while the other is trying to sabotage all solutions while advancing no constructive answers of their own. Polling shows disapproval of the law does not translate into majority support for GOP attempts to repeal or sabotage it, and Dems think this will only harden as more people enjoy the law’s benefits."

And even if they don't improve, if things stay exactly the way they are now, Republicans lose the Obamacare issue. Since most people don't want repeal -- and didn't while even the most critical stories blared from the media -- Republicans are already on a bad footing on the issue. And they have been for months, having become a mostly single-issue party with over forty bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act passed in the House.

The Affordable Care Act won't be a winning issue for the GOP. Whether it will be for Democrats remains to be seen. But if anyone has the upper hand on the issue right now, it's not Republicans.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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