(Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
(Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

It is the supreme irony of this presidency that the candidate who thrilled young voters is now bedeviled by their refusal to go along with his prized legislative accomplishment. And the candidate who ran as a celebrity, on his personal aura, is now suffering, in part, because people don’t like him.

It is no secret that the failure of young people to sign up in the exchange is a death sentence for Obamacare. So far the exchanges are heavily tilted toward older, sicker customers. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Less-healthy customers are more likely to persevere through technical obstacles to gain coverage, insurers say. Younger, healthier customers who feel less need for insurance—but whose widespread participation is important to the financial success of the system—could be quicker to give up.

The average enrollee age at Priority Health, a Michigan insurer, has ticked up to age 51 for newcomers, from about 41 years old for plans offered for the current year, said Joan Budden,  chief marketing officer. Arise Health Plan, Wisconsin’s largest nonprofit insurer, said more than half its 150 signees are over 50, a higher proportion than expected, while declining to be specific on its target age.

No wonder President Obama refers to his efforts to make Obamacare work as “one last campaign.” Campaigns are the times when young people respond. Campaigns are when the fact-checking is easier and the opponents can be demagogued. But in governing those same young people don’t necessarily do as they are expected, especially when it comes to spending their own money.

It doesn’t help when the president piles untruth (What I really said was. . .) upon untruth (You can keep your insurance). It’s the sort of old-style, cynical politics that he once deplored.

Beyond young people the Obamacare fiasco has further eroded his credibility and likeability,  making it hard to perform the role of salesman-in-chief. It is not merely his performance ratings that are sinking. ( RealClearPolitics’s average has his job approval at 43.4 percent with his disapproval at 51.9 percent.) The Associated Press explains:

For years, President Barack Obama’s personal favorability ratings served as a political firewall that sustained him through an economic recession, grueling fights with congressional Republicans, and the grind of a re-election campaign.

But after a rough start to Obama’s second term, Americans increasingly view the president unfavorably. And perhaps most concerning for the White House: an Associated Press analysis of public polling shows it has become more difficult over time for Obama to fully rebound from dents in his favorability ratings . . .

A series of recent polls show Obama’s personal favorability now leaning negative, including an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll released last week that found positive views of Obama at the lowest point of his presidency and down 6 points from earlier in October. The drop follows the 16-day government shutdown, the cascade of problems during his health care law’s rollout, and another flood of revelations about U.S. government spying.

The perception that he lacks leadership skills, candor and competency is deadly. (“An Associated Press-GfK poll from early October found that 52 percent of Americans didn’t think Obama was very honest and were split on whether he was even likable.”) Sure, he won’t be on the ballot but ever vulnerable Democrat will be tied to him and his policies. And his ability to move Congress, never very great, will diminish further.

It turns out that celebrity and youth appeal are fleeting. At some point you need to show substance and qualities other than being “cool.” The president has finally, it seems, exhausted his main skill, his ability to campaign. For this president — who isn’t a policy wonk, a glad-hander or a deal-maker – that’s about all there is.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.