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President Obama embraces ‘Obamacare’ label. But why?

at 06:30 AM ET, 03/26/2012

Even as the Supreme Court begins oral arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law today, the incumbent and his reelection team have made a critical strategic decision to embrace the term “Obamacare.”


U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as he attends a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak at the presidential house on March 25, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
“You want to call it Obamacare — that’s okay, because I do care,” Obama said at a fundraiser in Atlanta late last week. Then on Friday, the White House urged supporters of the law to tweet why they backed it with the hashtag “#ilikeobamacare.” And on Sunday, White House senior adviser David Plouffe threw down the political gauntlet on the term; “I’m convinced at the end of the decade, the Republicans are going to regret turning this [into] ‘Obamacare,’” Plouffe said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The decision to throw their arms politically around “Obamacare” — initially a pejorative term coined by Republicans to deride the Affordable Care Act and compare it to Hillary Clinton’s failed “Hillarycare” effort — is a significant shift in how the president and his team talk about the law.

For much of the two years since Obama signed the bill into law, the incumbent — and his party — have played defense on it, attempting to convince a skeptical public that it was a much-needed reform and not an unnecessary government takeover.

Democrats now acknowledge they lost that message fight — and the results of the 2010 election, in which Republicans ran hard against the law and picked up a whopping 63 seats in the House, is evidence of that fact. Even now polling suggests a majority of the American public — 52 percent in an early March Washington Post-ABC News poll — oppose the law.

What the White House and the Obama reelection team in Chicago clearly believe is that the Supreme Court case amounts to the opening of a new front of the message wars surrounding the health care law. And, if they lost the first fight because they played too much defense, now they are doing their damnedest to get on offense — early and often.

“On Obamacare, Republicans spent hundreds of millions branding Obamacare as a negative, and we believe we can turn that to our advantage,” said Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Obama’s campaign. “The term is incredibly popular with the president’s supporters, who will fight to the end to defend the law after 70 years of work to pass health reform.”

Embracing the term “Obamacare” is a recognition that the president owns the law politically-speaking no matter what the court decides. That reality means he must re-define “Obamacare” in the eyes (or, more accurately, ears) of the public. “Obamacare” currently stands for everything people don’t like about the law. The White House has to make it stand for all the good things in the law.

We’ve written previously that the lack of movement in the Affordable Care Act’s poll numbers leads us to believe that very few people are either undecided or persuadable on the issue. The White House begs to differ, and the embrace of “Obamacare” is a leading edge of a strategy to change minds on what the law means.

Even if they’re wrong, the White House had decided not to give up on health care as a political issue without a fight. And judging from how Republicans view the law, a fight is why they will have.

Santorum gains little in Louisiana: Despite Santorum’s huge win in Saturday’s Louisiana primary, he gained just five delegates on Romney and still trails by nearly 300 delegates, according to projections.

Just 15 of the state’s 46 delegates were awarded based on the results of the primary, and Santorum won 10 of them. Another five went to Romney, and five others that could have been won will instead be designated as “uncommitted.”

The majority of the state’s delegates, including those five, will be at stake during the state party’s June convention.

Overall, the most recent AP projections show Romney leading Santorum in the delegate race 568 to 273.

Romney is almost exactly halfway to 1,144 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. He would need to win 46 percent of the 1,251 remaining delegates.

Ryan would consider VP slot: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he would consider joining a presidential ticket, if asked.

The House Budget Committee chairman insisted that he’s focused on his day job and the country’s national debt, but after some pressing from a couple of Sunday morning shows, he finally admitted that he would think about it if the job was offered to him.

“I would have to consider it,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “But it’s not something I’m even thinking about, because I think our job in Congress is pretty important.

Fixbits:

Santorum says Romney would be the GOP’s worst general election candidate.

Romney leads the all-important California primary by double digits, according to a new University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll.

Newt Gingrich and David Plouffe joust over Obama’s reaction to Trayvon Martin.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) launches a new ad playing up his work on the farm. The ad buy is about $60,000.

The DCCC is up with a new web video on Medicare featuring Martin Sheen.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) wins the Independence Party line in his reelection race — a key ballot line that could have gone for either the Democratic candidate or Republican candidate.

Rick Perry pokes fun at himself and his former competition at the Gridiron Dinner.

The Baltimore Sun with a closer look at the contentious Democratic primary to face Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.).

Must-reads:

Little home comfort for Santorum in Pennsylvania” — Patricia Zengerle, Reuters

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall: Big money pours into big-government fight” — Marc Fisher, Washington Post

Twenty years on, ‘Year of the Woman’ fades” — Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

New map challenges NY congress members” — AP

Romney and the Mormon Factor” — Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg

In budget battle, GOP regroups on Medicare message” — Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Kane, Washington Post

Some in Tea Party cite ‘buyer’s remorse’ with SC Gov. Haley” Gina Smith, The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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