Last week Congressional Democrats were given a rude warning on the status of Obamacare’s implementation. Paraphrasing here, things are not rolling out smoothly. The administration in a blog post, and later a Presidential press conference, announced that the employer mandate would be delayed for at least one year. In English that means at least until 2015. The business community sighed in relief, Republicans promised to fight even more against the law and left in the middle were Senate and Congressional Democrats stuck defending a law seemingly headed off a cliff.
For the few Democrats in the House sitting in districts Romney won the news was far from welcome. For Senators Mary Landrieu (LA), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Pryor (LA), and Mark Begich (AK) the news was something you would wish you could will away. All four of these Senators have something in common. They are running in states Romney won in 2012 and short of North Carolina by double-digit margins. These Democrats hopes partly hinge on how voters view Healthcare Reform in 2014. The announcement unlikely to make voters feel warmer to the law.
Proponents of the law outside the administration concede that this is a major blow to the law. Numerous public opinion polls have shown the public is confused about the law. Realclearpolitic’s average of support/opposition to the law finds support at an all-time low. Yet supporters continue to point to the fact that the states that opted to create exchanges are set to see them come online next year. They also point to the early benefits of the law such as a child being able to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26.
But it seems the administration and proponents know they are continuing to lose the PR war. The administration tried to coax the NFL and NBA to laud the law to sports fans (mostly younger, healthier males). When both rebuffed the government the Health and Human Services Dept. turned to thousands of librarians in public schools to tout the law to children and their parents.
Opponents of the law are quick to point out these failures and efforts of the administration. In recent weeks new reports have surfaced of the law causing insurance premiums to rise anywhere between 60%-140% in some states. They also note that the administration has been trying to get Democrats to embrace the law but they remain wary of doing so.
House Democrats running in 2014 in districts Romney won might have some political cover. After-all, many of them voted against final passage in the House at least once. However, for every Democrat in the Senate they have no excuse. Mary Landrieu was instrumental in allowing the law to avoid a filibuster and Pryor, Begich and Hagan barely made a peep during debate or on final passage of the bill.
Democrats have been careful how they have framed their comments on the President’s decision. In the House the party continues to mock Republicans for repealing the law almost 40 times. In the Senate Harry Reid has restated the law would have hiccups as it is rolled out and the public needs to be patient. Yet it seems not every member of Reid’s Caucus shares his optimistic view of the law. In a Budget Committee meeting earlier this year, outgoing Montana Senator and Committee Chair Max Baucus warned HHS officials the law was in danger of becoming a train-wreck. When party officials tried to tone done his wording Baucus reiterated his point.
Much of the early speculation on the decision centered on how this move might benefit Democrats in the midterms. But it puts the unpopular law once again front and center on the political scene. Many Democrats were wiped out in 2010 due to the law, including many who opposed it. It is also unclear how voters will view the administration’s decision. The public is already skeptical and worried about the law. This move is unlikely to move opinion away from continuing to be skeptical.
In 2008 President Obama debated Hilary Clinton. Discussing the failed Healthcare Reform effort of 1993 Obama said Clinton failed because she fought against everybody stating, “The way she approached it back in ’93, I think, was wrong in part because she had the view that what’s required is simply to fight,” the then-Illinois senator said of his primary rival. “And Senator Clinton ended up fighting not just the insurance companies and the drug companies, but also members of her own party. … The only way we are going to actually get this stuff done is … we’re going to have to mobilize and inspire the American people so that they’re paying attention to what their government is doing. And that’s what I’ve been doing in this campaign, and that’s what I will do as president,” he added. “There’s nothing romantic or silly about that. If the American people are activated, that’s how change is going to happen.”
That may be exactly what Democrats are worried about heading into 2014!