The five biggest ways Obamacare’s problems have hurt Democrats

The implementation of the federal health-care law has been anything but smooth. No one understands this more acutely than congressional Democrats.

(Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

(Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

As President Obama and his administration try to right the ship amid increasing Democratic consternation, it's worth taking inventory of the specific ways in which the troubled rollout has already hurt the party and threatens to do further damage to it.  To understand congressional Democrats' anxiety is to understand the political costs they have already sustained and may yet suffer.

Below are the five biggest ways congressional Democrats have been stung hard by the unsteady health-care launch.

1. So much for that shutdown bump. The Republican brand took a big-time hit coming out of the government shutdown showdown and for the first time in a long time it was beginning to look like House Democrats' long-shot bid for the majority was suddenly a bit more attainable. Democrats built up nine and eight-point leads respectively in the generic House ballot tests released last month by Quinnipiac University and Fox News. In this month's polls, Republicans have pulled even against the backdrop of the problematic rollout of Obamacare, including the revelation that some Americans will lose their health plans despite assurances from Obama they wouldn't have to give them up.

2. Red state Democrats are on defense. Why is Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) pushing a bill to allow people whose insurance plans have been canceled to keep them? And why is Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) enrolling in the exchange and declining a federal subsidy? What about Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), who endorsed the "Keep Your Health Plan Act" designed by Republicans? Politically speaking, if they didn't, the backlash they are feeling would be amplified tenfold. These vulnerable Democrats facing reelection in 2014 have been forced to show they are taking proactive steps to try to improve the law and distancing themselves from its problems. In other words, they are playing a lot of defense, never desirable in a campaign.

3. Obama's polling problems = their problems. Obama's poll numbers have been downright bad. The public's once robust level of trust in him has faded. And his approval rating is as bad as its ever been. Obama doesn't have to face reelection, but Democratic members of Congress do. And they will be running against a GOP machine eager to tie them to the president, should he remain unpopular.

4. Uncertainty is a pain. Politicians want to know what's coming whenever possible, in order to prepare accordingly. But that's awfully hard for Democrats to do in the current predicament. It's still not clear what the administration's plan is for addressing concerns about canceled health-care policies, nor is it obvious what enrollment statistics are going to look like, or when exactly HealthCare.gov will be completely free of its most severe glitches. The known unknowns should make any Democrat running for reelection on swing turf uneasy.

5. What budget debate? Just as Republicans missed an opportunity when they overshadowed the early stages of the health-care rollout woes with the government shutdown showdown, Democrats' desire to hone in on the next fiscal showdown has been upstaged by all the attention Obamacare is getting. House Democrats' campaign arm released paid online ads against 32 House Republicans this week claiming they "learned nothing" from the last showdown. Just think about how much more attention the attacks would be getting if Obamacare were running smoothly.

Fixbits: 

Only about 106,000 Americans signed up for health-care plans in the first month of new marketplaces.

Former top Obama aide Jim Messina is in talks to join the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action.

Bill Hyers will manage Democrat Charlie Crist's campaign for governor of Florida. Hyers manged Bill de Blasio's successful bid for mayor of New York City.

The House won't go to conference on immigration with the Senate, says Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) is up big on Liz Cheney (R), according to a poll conducted for a group running ads against Cheney.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed a same-sex marriage bill into law.

The White House sought to delay new sanctions against Iran over concerns it could get in the way of a nuclear deal with the Iranians.

Mitt Romney said primaries > caucuses and nominating conventions.

Must-reads: 

"Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct" -- Carol D. Leonnig and David Nakamura, Washington Post

"For Obama, loss of trust over health-care law poses major problems for his agenda, legacy" -- Scott Wilson, Washington Post

Also on The Fix

The good, the bad and the plain ugly of the Obamacare numbers