The Morning Plum: Dems try going on offense on Obamacare

I’ve been telling you for some time now that Democrats believe they can go on offense on Obamacare, by casting the debate over the law as a choice between the GOP agenda, which would return us to the old system, and a flawed but fixable solution that is tangibly improving the lives of many Americans.

Now, in the wake of the fix to the federal website, Democrats are launching a campaign designed to do just that. Politico reports that the White House and Dems are rolling out a coordinated effort to draw attention to the law’s benefits, which will kick off with a speech by Obama today:

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. That, one party operative said, is what polling says will help them win.  Instead, Democrats have spent the past two months blaming a president of their  own party for the deficiencies of a law that they own. [...]

On Wednesday, the White House and Democratic allies will focus on how Americans  are paying less for preventative care under Obamacare. On Thursday, they’ll  highlight that people with preexisting conditions can no longer be charged more  or denied coverage. And on Friday, they’ll emphasize the slowing growth in  health care costs.

Yes, Dems “own” Obamacare. Dems have known for months that problems would arise, that the law would remain unpopular, and that their best bet would be to adopt a ”keep and fix” message to contrast with the GOP’s “repeal and replace with nothing” stance. The scale of the rollout problems caught Dems by surprise and led some to threaten to run from the law. But they never meaningfully did. It’s clear they believe the worst is now over and it is safe to return to the message they always expected to adopt.

I know I’m a broken record here, but 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.

Meanwhile, as Alex Roarty reports, Republican candidates are finding themselves in a box: Because the base insists on full repeal, they don’t have any way of embracing parts of Obamacare that are popular — making it easier to cast them as ideologically unwilling to embrace any fixes to the health system advanced by Dems.

The notion that Obamacare is not a uniform political loser for Dems, and that the GOP stance could also prove problematic over time, is tough for many to swallow. But it’s what senior Dems genuinely believe, even if it will take a lot of time and political endurance to prove it.

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* OBAMACARE IS THE SALVATION OF THE GOP: This, from Jonathan Weisman’s overview of why Congress is unlikely to get much done before the end of the year, is key:

Many Republicans believe they are getting such good traction from their attacks on President Obama’s stumbling health care law that they feel less compelled to produce results. Any public fight over legislative compromises could take away from the focus Republicans have kept on the health care law.       

“I ran on a government that did less,” said Representative Reid Ribble, Republican of Wisconsin. “I felt the government was overreaching, and the citizens that sent me didn’t want me to be overaggressive in writing new laws. The Affordable Care Act launch is actually demonstrating the ineptitude of the federal government in handling these big programs.”

As I’ve noted here, Obamacare’s problems have only deepened the conviction that the law’s epic collapse is at hand, postponing the need for a GOP health care alternative or for legislation on other issues that would help to solve the party’s political problems.

* OBAMACARE REALITY CHECK OF THE DAY: The Associated Press brings it:

Behind the scenes, the administration is furiously trying to rectify an unresolved issue with enrollment data that could become a significant headache after the first of the year. Insurers say much of the enrollment data they’re receiving is practically useless, meaning some consumers might not be able to get access to benefits on Jan. 1, the date their coverage is scheduled to take effect.

Keep an eye on plans for a big insurance industry advertising push to entice people on to the exchanges, to know if the industry thinks the problems are being solved.

 * SENATE DEMS FLOAT NEW IRAN SANCTIONS BILL: As I speculated yesterday, there is a way Senate Dems could pass a new Iran sanctions bill that gives the administration the flexibility it needs to continue negotiations after the six month expiration of the temporary deal. The Cable reports that it’s under active consideration:

The law would work like this: If after six months, when the current interim deal with Iran is set to expire, no deal is made, then new sanctions against Tehran will take effect. However, if at that juncture, the White House needs more time to finish negotiating a final comprehensive deal, the bill gives the administration more flexibility. How much flexibility is precisely what Democrats and Republicans are trying to work out.

It’s unclear where the White House stands on this possibility — officials have said any sanctions bill risks undermining the prospects of a long term deal. But this at least suggests Dems are looking for a way to give the administration the flexibility it’s asking for.

* CONSERVATIVE AGENDA ON BALLOT IN BIG STATES: Politico has a good overview of all the gubernatorial races where Dems believe they may be able to oust Republican governors elected in 2010 who are now campaigning for reelection on a conservative agenda in states Obama won two years later. These GOP governors

have worked to implement the exact agenda Obama campaigned against last  year: lower taxes on the wealthy, government program reductions, voting rights  challenges, labor cuts, gay rights opposition and moves against reproductive rights….Democratic campaigns say that the records Republican incumbents have built up —  and how closely they match the Romney agenda — explain polls showing challengers  running strong, and poised to capitalize on the same voters who delivered their states for Obama last year.

Winning back some statehouses would be a first step in reversing GOP redistricting gains from 2010 that have had so much impact on the Obama era.

* LEGAL CHALLENGE TO OBAMACARE MOVES FORWARD: The New York Times reports that a D.C. court will today hear oral arguments in the latest challenge to Obamacare: The claim that the law does not give the IRS the authority to give out subsidies via the federally-run exchanges, something only the state-run exchanges can do. It seems clear that such challenges to the law will go on for years, perhaps keeping alive the hope on the right that the law really can be destroyed eventually.

* IS A MINI-BARGAIN CLOSE ON THE BUDGET? TPM reports that something is within reach:

There is broad agreement that a portion of the sequester should be replaced with targeted spending cuts. But Democrats demand revenues in the mix and Republicans categorically reject new taxes. So to thread that needle, sources familiar with the negotiations say, Murray and Ryan are weighing revenues in the form of asset sales and government fees, rather than Democrats’ preference for raising revenue by scaling back tax loopholes.

But can such a thing pass the House? The alternative would appear to be yet another continuing resolution temporarily funding the government at sequester levels, and it’s not clear Republicans can pass that, either.

* AND REMEMBER THAT THING CALLED “THE ECONOMY”? David Hawkings raises a very good question: Will the fact that the economy is still struggling play the slightest role in prodding lawmakers towards a deal to replace the sequester?

What else?

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