September 4, 2014

Republican operatives are seizing on an apparent contradiction between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s 2008 campaign promise and his vote for Obamacare. In 2008 Udall vowed: “I’m not for a government-sponsored solution. I’m for enhancing and improving the employer-based system that we have.” Udall counters that Obamacare — with a government-run exchange, a government edict to buy insurance, government subsidies and a government-level of benefits (no “crappy” plans, as the president said) — is not a “government-sponsored solution.” Go figure. What is more, Republicans point to Udall’s support for the public option as indisputable proof that he was looking to squeeze out employer-based coverage (which is the natural consequence of a public option against which for-profit insurers cannot compete.)

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (Danny Johnston/Associated Press) Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

At any rate, the second sentence is just as troubling as the vow not to allow government intrusion into the health-care system. Did Obamacare enhance and improve the employer-based system? Many voters sure don’t think so. There are those whose employer actually dropped them altogether. It has made hiring (especially that 50th person to trigger Obamacare) that much more difficult, meaning that employer-based insurance isn’t available to those who can’t get employed.

Democrats and the media are certain Obamacare is a non-issue in the 2014 race. A Republican operative retorts: “Let them pretend! They said the same thing in 2010.”

It certainly is an issue in Colorado, and frankly it’s an issue in every competitive Senate race. GOP candidates talk about it and the broken promise to let voters keep their doctor. They vow to repeal and replace it. They run lots of ads about it. Third-party groups have spent tens of millions in anti-Obamacare ads, and American Crossroads GPS is starting another round of Obamacare ads. “The truth is, and has been, that this cake is baked — the law has been extremely unpopular for years,” says the operative. “The public view of it remains static. It is simply common sense that once voters are reminded and/or made aware that a vulnerable Democratic senator or candidate supported/supports/stands by ObamaCare, running ads exclusively and solely on that topic would be nonsensical.”

Certainly, most Democrats don’t want to make it an issue for obvious reasons (hint: voters especially in red states don’t like it), but that is a far cry from saying it’s not an issue. And to date we don’t see any vulnerable Democrats running ads touting their support for Obamacare. In fact, Democrats’ vote for Obamacare in the GOP Senate candidates’ messaging has become synonymous with “out of touch with voters back home” or “beholden to liberals and not constituents” in a conservative state.

All that said, voters’ negative perceptions of the economy, their low approval for the president and even immigration are now issues favoring Republicans. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether Democrats continue to distance themselves from a president failing on multiple fronts.

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