Morning Plum: Republicans are absolutely certain Obamacare has already failed

November 27, 2013

With Obamacare facing its deadline for website functionality, Republicans appear absolutely, irrevocably, 100 percent certain the law’s total collapse is at hand, or even already complete. However, they may be the only ones who are convinced of this.

A new CNN poll tests public opinion on the law in a way I haven’t seen before — and it shows Republicans are the only group who believe the law’s problems can’t be solved and that it should now be pronounced a failure. Independents and moderates believe it can still work.

To be sure, opposition is running high, at 58 percent, as in many other polls, and virtually no one believes the law is a success, which is as it should be. This means, again, that the rollout continues to put Democrats in serious political peril. But disapproval does not necessarily translate into giving up on the law, which matters, because it goes to whether people will enroll in the numbers necessary to make it work over time.

The poll finds 53 percent of Americans say it’s too soon to tell if the law will succeed or fail, versus 39 percent who pronounce it a failure. That latter sentiment is driven by Republicans: Independents say it’s too soon to tell by 55-41; moderates by 58-35. But Republicans overwhelmingly believe it’s a failure by 70-25.

The poll also finds 54 percent believe current problems facing the law will eventually be solved, versus 45 percent who don’t. Again, that latter sentiment is driven by Republicans: Independents think they will be solved by 50-48; moderates by 55-43. By contrast, Republicans overwhelmingly believe they won’t be solved by 72-27.

Crucially, young Americans — who are important to the law’s success – overwhelmingly believe the problems will be solved (71 percent). Part of the campaign by Republicans to persuade Americans that the law’s doom is inevitable is about dissuading people from enrolling, to turn that into a self fulfilling prophesy.

By the way: The CNN poll also finds that of those who oppose the law, 14 percent say it’s not liberal enough — meaning the total who support the law or want it to go further is 54 percent, versus 41 percent who say it’s too liberal.

I’ve long thought that while disapproval of the law is very real, and a serious problem for Dems, public opinion is more nuanced than many Republicans — and neutral commentators — have allowed for. Disapproval means different things; it does not necessarily translate into support for the GOP position of repeal; and doesn’t mean the public isn’t prepared to give the law a chance to work. Today’s poll would suggest those nuances remain — even when the crush of bad press for the law could not possibly be worse. Republicans may be so certain that the law’s doom is sealed that they are not entertaining any other possible outcomes, but if this poll is right, that view is still a minority position.

Of course, all of this is moot unless the administration makes the law work over time.

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* WHITE HOUSE MANAGING EXPECTATIONS ON OBAMACARE FIX: The New York Times reports that the White House is privately urging outside allies not to do too much to drive traffic to the federal Obamacare website after the November 30th deadline for fixing it, out of fear of overwhelming it once again:

With a self-imposed deadline for repairs to the website approaching on Saturday, the administration is trying to strike a delicate balance. It is encouraging people to go or return to the website but does not want to create too much demand. It boasts that the website is vastly improved, but does not want to raise expectations that it will work for everyone.

This has the air of classic expectations management; let’s hope it’s ready for whatever traffic it gets. Also worth noting: I’m not sure it’s well understood that if it is deemed ready to handle a high volume, the White House does have the capacity to drive traffic to the site in a big way.

* DEMS PLAN PUSH TO HIGHLIGHT LAW’S SUCCESSES: Meanwhile, the Post reports that Senate Democratic leaders are urging Democratic Senators to use the Thanksgiving recess to find and aggressively highlight individual stories of Obamacare making people’s lives better. This comes as Republicans are waging their own war of anecdotes highlighting tales of people losing coverage. Note this:

One senior Democratic aide familiar with the plan said that new push was needed because the White House was failing to tout the law’s early successes. “Democrats expected the White House to be more aggressive in promoting positive stories surrounding the Affordable Care Act, but that effort hasn’t gotten off the ground,” said the aide, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plan and requested anonymity. “Congressional Democrats are recognizing they need to fill that gap.”

So, yes, Dems need to get these stories out there. But if the website is fixed, suddenly the people Republicans are pointing to may find they have other coverage options — potentially subsidized ones — that they like better; Dems will be trying to get them coverage, while Republicans will still be trying to sabotage the law.

* OBAMACARE IS ALREADY WORKING: Politico has a very fair piece on Obamacare’s rollout, noting that even if the website is a disaster borne of administration “incompetence,” enrollment success in some states, plus the Medicaid expansion’s success, shows the law’s fate has not been sealed yet:

Nationally, 1.5 million people applied for health coverage in October —  suggesting that there’s a lot more potential interest than the 106,000 who got  all the way through the federal and state Obamacare websites to select a private  health plan.

And, of course, if the website is fixed, those people just might be able to enroll. It’s a sign of the success of the law’s foes in the spin wars that Politico needs to go out of its way to note that Obamacare’s death is not “final.”

* AMERICANS BACK IRAN DEAL: A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that a plurality of Americans, 44 percent, supports the deal to temporarily halt Iran’s nuclear program, while it is opposed by all of 22 percent. This, even though the poll finds Americans have “little trust” towards “Iranian intentions.”

This suggests Americans may want to give the deal a chance to work, despite their skepticism — something Senate Dems who are mulling new sanctions while talks continue might keep in mind.

 * OBAMA UNDER PRESSURE ON IMMIGRATION: The Hill makes a key point: The lack of Congressional action on immigration reform means advocates are only going to grow more impatient over time with Obama to slow deportations. Some have rightly pointed out that Obama’s power isn’t limitless here. The response:

“I think he overstates the case that he doesn’t have the authority,” Frank Sharry, founder of the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice, told the Christian Science Monitor. “He may not have authority to give people a path to citizenship. Of course he doesn’t. But does he have the authority to have DHS implement his priorities and reflect his values? Yes, and that’s not happening,” he said.

The president will probably have to review administration policy sooner or later.

* NO, THE NUCLEAR OPTION WILL NOT MAKE THINGS WORSE: Norman Ornstein has an excellent look at the Dems’ decision to go nuclear, arguing that Republican threats to grind the Senate to a halt in retaliation are rendered a bit silly by the fact that they already had made things as dysfunctional as possible:

The 113th Congress was well on the way to surpassing the 112th as the most do-nothing Congress in our lifetimes long before the nuclear option. Nothing, sadly, has changed — except the ability of a president to staff his own administration and to fill long-standing vacancies in the judiciary.

Indeed, as Ornstein notes, there still remain plenty of procedural weapons at Mitch McConnell’s disposal to continue to try to stymie the President’s agenda.

* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, OBAMACARE DERANGEMENT EDITION: This one comes courtesy of GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, explaining why his state isn’t going to opt in to the Medicaid expansion:

“We don’t need the likes of Kathleen Sebelius or Barack Obama telling us what we should like or need. Obamacare is on life support, and President Obama keeps giving it another jolt to keep it alive.”

As always, note the absolute certainty that Obamacare’s apocalyptic collapse has already occured. Why won’t the president accept reality and put the law out of its misery, already?

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.
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