How President Obama can stop the bleeding on Obamacare

November 13, 2013

President Obama is at the lowest point of his presidency.


U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a nomination announcement with Timothy "Tim" Massad, assistant secretary of financial stability at the U.S. Treasury and U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), not pictured, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

That's according to a slew of new national polls released over the past week, all which show the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov and the president's misleading "if you like your insurance, you can keep it" pledge are dragging down his numbers to record lows.

Take a Quinnipiac University poll released late Tuesday. Just 39 percent of registered voters approved of the job the president is doing, his lowest approval mark in Q polls since he became president in 2009. Just 39 percent support the health care law, as opposed to 45 percent who said the same in a Q poll done in early October.  And a majority of voters (52 percent) said Obama was not "honest and trustworthy," the first time a majority of Americans have felt that way.

The blood-letting will continue later this week when the official enrollment numbers for the first month of signups on HealthCare.gov are released. Estimates that roughly 40,000 people signed up for private insurance via the deeply problematic Web site in its first six weeks of existence are nothing short of a huge disappointment. The incongruity between what was promised and what has been delivered is a recipe for political problems in a vacuum -- especially coming after all of the other problems with which the Web site and the law have been plagued.

Given all of that, you should circle Nov. 30 as Obama's best, near-term chance of ending the political damage done by the events of the last six weeks. Why? That's the self-imposed deadline the Obama administration has set for all of the problems with HealthCare.gov to be solved -- one that it will apparently be hard-pressed to meet.

While the political problems related to the law go beyond the Web site -- Obama's "if you like it, you keep it" statement has undermined him as a credible messenger on the issue -- the failure of the Web site to properly launch has become the most memorable symbol of these struggles. The split screens of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying on Capitol Hill about the Web site's problems and the Web site actually not working are devastating to the administration's credibility on the matter.

Fixing it on time, then, is critical to beginning to rebuild that credibility and repairing the political damage.

Already, there is an effort afoot in Congress that would force Obama to allow those who like their health-care plans to keep them. If that Nov. 30 deadline isn't met, what has been a trickle of swing-state Democrats supporting such a move would turn into a flood. So, too, would be efforts by those same Democrats to distance themselves from Obama, a move that would further isolate the president as the 2014 election -- and the likely end of his political sway -- crept ever closer.

If Nov. 30 comes and goes without a lasting fix to HealthCare.gov, the last six weeks will look pleasant compared to what comes after.  Second-term presidencies have a tendency to go into negative news spirals -- Reagan on Iran-Contra, Bill Clinton on impeachment. George W. Bush on Iraq and Katrina -- from which they struggle to recover quickly or at all.

The health care law poses that potential for Obama unless the Nov. 30 deadline can be met.

Fixbits:

Bill Clinton says Obama should keep his word on letting people keep their insurance.

Obama isn't the only one hitting a new low; so is Congress.

Hawaii is the 15th state to approve same-sex marriage.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will announce his reelection plans later this month.

Former Republican senator Larry Pressler (S.D.) says he might run for his old seat as an independent.

The Supreme Court won't review the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision to strike down the state's strict abortion ultrasounds law.

Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader says Obama was "grossly misleading" on people keeping their insurance plans.

Must-reads:

"GOP blocks Obama court nominee, but parties’ confirmation wars aren’t new" -- Paul Kane, Washington Post

"Most Americans live in Purple America, not Red or Blue America" -- John Sides, Washington Post

"Justices consider drug dealer’s responsibility for man’s fatal overdose" -- Robert Barnes, Washington Post

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Chris Cillizza · November 12, 2013