October 21, 2013
US President Barack Obama speaks about the reopening of government following a shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 17, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama speaks about the reopening of government following a shutdown in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 17, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Today, President Obama will hold an event with folks who managed to sign up for the Obamacare exchanges, despite the horrific problems that have plagued the new system. He is expected to directly address these problems, and to declare them “unacceptable.”

This comes as a new poll from CNN shows in a fresh way that the shutdown fiasco badly damaged the GOP. Yet if there is anything that could squander these political gains for Dems, it is continued problems with the implementation of the law.

The CNN poll is remarkable. It finds that 54 percent of Americans think continued GOP control of the House is bad for the country, including 59 percent of moderates and 53 percent of independents. (Only around a third of both groups say it’s good for the country.) Even a plurality of seniors — a crucial midterm constituency, along with indys, and a group Dems are working to win over — says GOP rule in the House is bad for the country, by 47-46.

The poll also finds that Americans have more confidence in Obama rather than Republicans to deal with the major issues facing the country by 44-31. Among moderates, those numbers are 51-24; among indys they are 34-30; and among seniors they are 45-33.

The poll (which does us all a service by asking about the health law in a fine grained way) also finds a total of 53 percent of Americans either favor the law or think it’s not liberal enough.

Democrats who are hoping GOP shutdown and debt limit recklessness persuade the middle of the country that the party is no longer capable of constructive governing will rightly be heartened by these numbers. But it’s worth entertaining the possibility that Dem gains from the crisis could be undercut by a failure to clearly explain what is going wrong with the Affordable Care Act web site, whether there will be any accountability for it, and perhaps most crucially, why health care reform’s goals and even its implementation thus far — and how it is benefitting real people – are much larger than the short term problems we’re now seeing.

It’s always possible that the only thing that will really matter for the politics of Obamacare will be whether the law works in the long run. And there are plenty of reasons to assume the problems we’re seeing now don’t necessarily bode badly for the program’s overall future success. But such a glaring governance failure at the heart of Obama’s signature domestic achievement won’t make it any easier for Dems to cast the GOP as fundamentally incapable of solving the country’s problems.

* OBAMACARE’S ROLLOUT A MESS, BUT PEOPLE ARE APPLYING: The Associated Press has a very fair look at the terrible problems plaguing the health law’s exchanges, with this key detail:

Administration officials say more than 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges. The figures mark the most detailed measure yet of the problem-plagued rollout of the insurance market place. However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets.

The administration will release enrollment totals in mid November. Officials predict there will be heavier enrollment towards the end of the six month sign up period — meaning next year — but expect a lot of end zone dancing from Republicans next month if that enrollment total is low.

 * EXPERTS WARN OBAMACARE PROBLEMS COULD LAST FOR WEEKS: If the administration is serious about releasing enrollment totals by mid-November, this seems problematic: Some contractors tell the New York Times that the problems run deeper than previously advertised, and that it could take “weeks” to get to the point where the system is functioning smoothly. If so, that would take us substantially past mid-November.

* ADMINISTRATION FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGING DEPTH OF PROBLEMS: The Post has a good piece summing up the state of play, noting that officials are now admitting that the problems go further than previously said and that they are not simply the result of high demand:

The Web site sometimes gives inaccurate information about the federal tax credits that will help most people pay for a health plan, they say. And it sometimes erroneously tells low-income people that they are not eligible for Medicaid…Separately, insurers have complained that they are getting confusing information about who has signed up, with the exchange generating data that suggest multiple enrollments and cancellations for the same person on the same day.

* MORE TERRIBLE POLLING FOR REPUBLICANS: Public Policy Polling releases a new batch of surveys, commissioned by MoveOn.org, finding that overall, vulnerable House GOP incumbents are trailing in 37 districts —  suggestion, PPP says, that the government shutdown has broadened the map big time for Dems. However, major caveats apply: these match a generic challenger against a real one; and Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman has warned that the PPP polls are “poorly designed.”

We’ll know whether a “wave” is really forming if more polls show that races previously deemed to be relatively safe for Republicans are slipping into truly contested status. If there’s anything that can make that happen, it’s more crises next year.

* KEEP AN EYE ON GOP RETIREMENTS, TOO: GOP Rep. Tim Griffin is calling it quits.

* TED CRUZ THREATENS ANOTHER SHUTDOWN: Related to the above: The Texas Senator, asked by ABC News whether he’ll rule out trying to provoke another shutdown, replies thusly…

“I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare.”

Even if he does push for another shutdown, Dems believe GOP leaders will be far more likely to rebuff the hard right’s demand for another crisis during the 2014 elections, and indeed, Mitch McConnell has ruled one out, too. Either way, this means deep GOP divisions during the elections remain very possible.

* SHUTDOWN HELPS DEM FUNDRAISING: National Journal reports that the DCCC raised $8.4 million in September, a good haul so long before an election:

The report is the latest sign that after the shutdown, money is becoming a concern for Republicans. Dissatisfied donors from the GOP’s business and conservative wings, angry at a party they don’t think is listening to them, have threatened to withhold contributions. Democrats have also outraised Republicans elsewhere: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.6 million last month, $1 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s $3.6 million.

Also keep an eye on Dem recruiting as a sign of whether the shutdown will have any lasting impact.

* THE REAL THREAT TO HEALTH CARE REFORM: Paul Krugman has an important reminder: For all the problems with the rollout, which are inexcusable, the real threat to health reform remains GOP efforts to undermine its chances of success, specifically Republican governors opting out of the Medicaid expansion. The web site problems very well may get fixed very soon. But how long will Republican officials’ sabotage of the law, at the expense of untold numbers of their own constituents, last?

* WHY THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE ANY GRAND BARGAIN: E.J. Dionne makes it simple:

Outside groups: Please stop touting a “grand bargain.” There can be no grand bargain right now because Republicans are not inclined to agree to any new revenues and Democrats rightly won’t concede anything on the big retirement programs unless revenues are on the table. Pushing for a grand bargain now will only invite disappointment. And those who seek one even if it contains no new revenues will be revealing that their true priority is slashing Social Security and Medicare rather than achieving sustainable fiscal balance.

As Dionne notes, there is room for the parties to reach some kind of medium term compromise on replacing the sequester. However, this would require Republicans to enter into the normal give and take of governing. Also don’t miss Jonathan Cohn’s piece suggesting a short term bargain may be possible, particularly if GOP leaders prove willing to cut loose the Tea Party once again.

 * AND THERE MUST BE NO NEGOTIATIONS OVER IMMIGRATION REFORM! National Review’s Andrew Stiles reports that conservatives remain very wary of the possibility that House Republicans will enter into conference talks at some point on immigration reform. As noted here on Friday, there is a way this could happen even as House Republicans avoid voting for legalization for the 11 million. This will be another interesting test as to whether the hard right sets the House GOP agenda.

What else?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.