Let me preface this by saying that I’m not particularly confident that the Supreme Court will uphold Obamacare. And I don’t buy the spin from some quarters that it might be good politics for Obama if the law is tossed out in part or in its entirety, because it would rev up the Dem base in a big way.
But there are still signs that health care in general could prove to be a winning issue for Dems this fall.
There’s no denying that public opinion did not turn around on health reform as many of us predicted it would. But Clifford Young, the managing director for Ipsos polling, has an interesting new piece up that argues that the questions surrounding public opinion on health refom are much more complicated than they first appear.
Young points to Ipsos numbers that find the individual provisions in the law still remain overwhelmingly popular. The upshot is that nine of the bill’s major provisions — from the ban on discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, to the creation of insurance exchanges, to the extension of insurance to young adults up to the age of 26 — are supported by anywhere from 67 percent to 87 percent of Americans.
The individual mandate, meanwhile, is what remains overwhelmingly unpopular, with only 35 percent supporting it. And a majority of Americans oppose the overall bill, too, though many oppose it because it didn’t go far enough. How to make sense of all this? Young concludes:
On fuzzy issues like healthcare reform, we may not be measuring what we actually think we are measuring...when it comes to the healthcare reform, the devil truly is in the detail.
...all reform initiatives are ultimately defined by their weakest link. Here we had a large omnibus bill which included multiple items. For the most part, Americans support the items in the bill and only significantly oppose the individual mandate. However, this one part of the bill has come to define its entirety.
Republicans succeeded, with the help of Democrats, in defining the overall health bill largely by the individual mandate alone. But the fact remains that huge majorities support many of the major reforms that Obama and Dems have been championing. This reality did not enable propoponents to turn public opinion on the overall law around. But how will it play in the presidential race?
Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal all of Obamacare “on day one” of his presidency, meaning he’d repeal all of the bill’s overwhelmingly popular provisions, too. Whatever the political ramifications of the possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down the law, at some point the presidential campaign will have to turn to the topic of what Romney would replace all of these popular provisions with, and as we’ve seen, he’s struggled mightily to answer that question in a coherent way in the past.
Perhaps a full airing of this topic in the context of the presidential race could focus the debate on the specific reforms Dems favor in a way that the 2010 debate didn’t. If so, it’s hard to see why that’s an argument that would necessarily play against Democrats.