Dems make their bet: Repeal is a loser

The Wall Street Journal has a good little piece of reporting here that helps explain why Democrats are not running away from Obamacare in any meaningful sense:

Democratic leaders have decided that the best course is to show voters they are working to fix the law and to fault Republicans for trying to repeal it.

This strategy is driven in part by polling that House Democrats conducted over the summer in 68 contested districts. It found that 55% preferred a Democrat who wanted to fix the Affordable Care Act, compared with 40% who wanted a Republican who would repeal it.

“That’s been a very durable result through thick and thin, and, obviously, we’ve had a lot of thin lately,” said Geoff Garin, the pollster who conducted the survey. “Even with all the problems associated with the rollout, voters very clearly prefer somebody who wants to fix and improve the law over somebody who wants to totally repeal it.”

Now, obviously, this summer polling was done before the awful rollout. But it’s notable that Dems continue to fashion their strategy around the idea that ”fix and improve” is ultimately superior to repeal, even if this idea is born of necessity — i.e., that the alternative, running from the law, is worse.

The notion that repeal could actually prove a liability to Republicans is catching on with political observers. As NBC’s First Read crew put it today:

Republican leaders are no longer talking about repeal, which is now harder to pull off after Americans are purchasing their new health insurance….not a single Republican lawmaker used the word “repeal” on a Sunday show in the last two weeks. That’s not an accident. “Repeal” does not play well with swing voters…it does seem as we’ve entered a new stage in the health-care battle, with Democrats regrouping (and dare we say unified), and with Republicans running out of new attacks.

Indeed, the sense that repeal may not be a certain winner seems to be creating a bit of a difficult situation for a handful of Republican candidates, who have tried to edge away from repeal towards a more constructive message, only to be forced to snap back into line by internal GOP politics.

The truth, as Brian Beutler notes, is that repeal is in the process of fading away, but a deep rooted bitterness and anger over Obamacare will linger among GOP base voters. They will probably demand that lawmakers continue sabotaging the law in other ways that will end up denying coverage to a lot of people.  In political terms that will probably mean that the argument will remain for months and months roughly where it is right now: Dems calling for keeping the law and improving it; Republicans loudly condemning it and vowing to undercut it however they can without offering a serious alternative.

Opponents of the law like to say other land mines lie in its path towards a fully functional future. There is certainly a long way to go. And if those land mines go off, as seems very possible, Dems could again find themselves tested. But if you look at the messaging coming out of the Dem party committees, you’ll see a very heavy emphasis right now on the consequences of repeal. Dems know that it isn’t enough to merely sell the benefits of the law, given what a beating it has taken in the realm of public opinion. They need to push very hard in driving home the true meaning of the GOP repeal agenda, too, particularly since more bad news could be coming.

Meanwhile, Dems also know they can look forward to more like this:

Roughly 29,000 Americans signed up for insurance on HealthCare.gov between Dec. 1 and 2, according to an individual familiar with the figures who asked for anonymity to discuss ongoing operations. That total exceeds the total number of Americans who enrolled online between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, which was 26,794.

Every bit of news like this will only encourage Dems to hold the line. And to lean even harder into a message that emphasizes the consequences of repeal.

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