Morning Plum: Republicans know, just know, Obamacare will destroy country

As many have already pointed out, one of the most serious political problems Democrats face in 2014 is that Republicans are far more motivated by hatred of Obamacare than Dems are by their approval of the law. And some new polling just released by Pew Research captures this very nicely.

The poll’s basic finding: While a minority of Republicans say the law has personally impacted them in a negative way (39-52), Republicans overwhelmingly say the law is currently harming the country overall (69 percent) and say in even greater numbers (73 percent) that the law will harm the country overall. Republicans believe those things in far greater numbers than independents.

That perhaps helps explain the other key finding: Republicans are far more likely to say a candidate’s stance on the ACA will be “very important” to their midterm vote (64 percent) than either independents (45 percent) or Democrats (52 percent). The intensity is with the Obamacare-haters, which could help exacerbate the “midterm dropoff” problem Dems would already be facing.

Pew finds approval of the law among Americans is low (37-50), including among independents (34-53). But it still remains to be seen whether disapproval will translate into support for Republicans, and the unpopularity of the GOP repeal stance could, over time, mitigate the importance of generic approval-disapproval numbers.

The Pew poll’s finding of overwhelming GOP certainty that the law will hurt the country is generally mirrored in other polls. Kaiser recently found that only Republicans support repealing the law; and only Republicans want the debate over it to continue, while everyone else wants to move on.

The Obamacare Intensity Gap is a real problem for Dems. But the above helps explain why Republicans, too, face complications. They are constrained from advocating only for repeal, because the law’s provisions are kicking in for millions, and they are broadly popular. But they are also constrained from offering any meaningful alternative, because as Jonathan Cohn explains well, that would require supporting the tradeoffs necessary to accomplish what Obamacare accomplishes. Republicans either have to quietly back away from repeal or support “replacing” it with something that looks a lot like Obamacare. Yet both are nonstarters because the base won’t allow for it to be anything other than an unremitting catastrophe.

Repeal alone is increasingly unsustainable. But replace isn’t an easy escape hatch. And backing off of repeal is heresy to the all-important base. Could Republicans win big in 2014 despite this dilemma? Sure, thanks to the map and the intensity on their side. But Republicans still face an Obamacare conundrum with no easy answer.

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* A PLOT TO BOOT JOHN BOEHNER? National Journal reports on a surprising level of scheming among House conservatives:

They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November – when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time – by showing him that he won’t have the votes to be reelected in January.

That’s interesting, because Boehner had previously said he was in as strong a position as ever within the caucus after the government shutdown revealed the abject failure of conservative tactics. Oh well. Bye bye, immigration reform.

* IMMIGRATION ADVOCATES NOT GIVING UP ON CONGRESS: Still, ome in the advocacy community are planning a new series of events designed to keep pushing Congressional Republicans into acting on immigration reform. This is notable because others have essentially given up on Republicans, instead turning pressure on Obama to act unilaterally on deportations. But those who aren’t ready to give up on Congress maintain focusing only on the administration actually reduces heat on Republicans, making legislative reform — everyone’s paramount goal — less likely.

* A DEFENSE OF OBAMA’S DEPORTATION RECORD: The think tank New Democrat Network is out with a new report that crunches deportation data and concludes that if you factor in two categories — removals and turn-backs at the border — then deportations are lower than under George W. Bush.

However, the data does show that removals are higher under Obama than Bush, and the decline in returns can be attributed partly to a drop in attempted border crossings, thanks to the improving economy in Mexico and the downturn in the U.S. Still, it’s interesting stuff worth thinking about.

* RED STATE DEMS PROD OBAMA ON KEYSTONE: The Wall Street Journal reports that 11 Senate Democrats, including a number of vulnerable red state incumbents, are pushing Obama to approve the Keystone pipeline. Watch for more of this: It’s a way these Dems will try to achieve distance from the president and national Democrats on energy, an area where Republicans will paint red state Dems as Pelosi-Reid-Obama clones.

* KEEP AN EYE ON THE ARKANSAS SENATE RACE: Jessica Taylor has a good piece running through all the reasons it’s premature to write off Mark Pryor, despite the Beltway narrative that he is political toast. For what it’s worth, national Dems genuinely do think Pryor may well be in marginally better shape than other Dem incumbents.

* DEMS INTENSIFY FOCUS ON VOTING RIGHTS: The Fix’s Jamie Fuller has a good piece explaining why the fight over voting rights is assuming ever more importance for Democratic strategists eying the party’s future:

Out of all the Democratic Party’s objectives for 2014, voting rights is the most important for their future success. Equal pay never had a chance in Congress. Neither did many of the Democratic Party’s policy proposals concerning income inequality or immigration. Despite strong support from Republican donors, the fate of Employee Nondiscrimination Act remains unclear….Neither party will have any success with their legislative imperatives unless the balance in Congress changes, and Democrats seem to be thinking that organizing one of the most extensive voter awareness campaigns ever is their way to do it.

The Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, plus a new Dem campaign to focus on hitherto-obscure races for Secretary of State in swing states, ensure a more central role in the political conversation for the battle over voting access.

* A SHRED OF GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS: The Associated Press reports:

BREAKING: Lowest number of Americans seeking jobless benefits in almost 7 years; declines 32K to 300,000.

Breaking.

* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, UP-IS-DOWN EDITION: Great catch by Roll Call:

A Wednesday afternoon blog post by Ways and Means Republicans suggests that blocking an unemployment benefits extension may have boosted the economy.

“What Happened Since Extended Unemployment Benefits Ended?” the post asks. “More Jobs and Less Long-Term Unemployment, for Starters.”

No end to the fake excuses and bogus justifications.

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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