You constantly hear Republicans predicting that Obamacare will “collapse under its own weight,” one of the leading talking points predicting certain Apocalypse for the president’s signature domestic achievement. But, in a piece that should be widely read today, conservative writer Byron York ventures a question: “Are Republicans fooling themselves on Obamacare?” What if Republicans are getting it wrong? As York notes, another school of thought is taking hold among some policy-minded conservatives:
A lot of thoughtful conservatives are looking beyond Oct. 1 to Jan. 1, the day the law (except for the parts the president has unilaterally postponed) is scheduled to go fully into effect. On that day the government will begin subsidizing health insurance for millions of Americans. (A family of four with income as high as $88,000 will be eligible for subsidies.) When people begin receiving that entitlement, the dynamics of the Obamacare debate will change.
At that point, the Republican mantra of total repeal will become obsolete. The administration will mount a huge public relations campaign to highlight individuals who have received government assistance to help them afford, say, chemotherapy, or dialysis, or some other life-saving treatment. Will Republicans advocate cutting off the funds that help pay for such care?
The answer is no. Facing that reality, the GOP is likely to change its approach, arguing that those people should be helped while the rest of Obamacare is somehow dismantled.
Correct. As Jamelle Bouie noted here the other day, as Obamacare’s benefits kick in, a whole new constituency will be created over time, one that Republicans at all levels of government may prove reluctant to alienate.
All of this leads us to some of the new polling out today. A new National Journal survey asks the question in the right way, and finds this:
Given the choice to either repeal the law, wait and see how it takes effect, or add money to aid its implementation, only 36 percent of adults picked outright repeal. More than half chose to either wait and see (30 percent) or provide more money (27 percent).
As we’ve seen before, when respondents are offered a range of options — including changing the law or waiting and see — only a small minority supports full repeal. (When polls offer only a straight up choice between full repeal and no repeal, as today’s Post poll does, there’s more support for repeal, but that doesn’t really reflect the full range of public attitudes.) Indeed, the National Poll finds little support for full repeal even though it also finds a majority thinks implementation isn’t going well.
All of which raises a possibility: What if Republicans are making the same mistake about public opinion on Obamacare that they made in 2012 about Obama and the economy? Republicans assumed there was no way Obama could get reelected amid such an awful economy. But some analysts argued that voters had lowered their expectations on the economy, and while they were disappointed in Obama for not turning it around fast enough, they found this understandable, given the circumstances. That turned out to be right. What if the same is happening on Obamacare? What if Americans are unhappy with the law for various reasons, but do not want to repeal it and replace it with nothing — they do not want to return to a pre-reform free for all — and are willing, grudgingly, to give the law a chance to work?
York is right to note that plenty can still go wrong, particularly if too few healthy young people sign up for coverage, boosting prices for everyone else. That worries liberals, too. But if conservatives are seriously coming around to the idea that in one key way, time really is on Obamacare’s side, that’s significant.
* TODAY’S POST-POLICY GOP MOMENT: An amazing report from Roll Call on how House Republicans are planning to campaign on little more than the idea that they are Fighting Washington on behalf of the voters. Expect Dems to pounce on this today as more evidence today’s GOP is simply not serious about basic governing.
Also note that it comes on the same day as Politico reports that the House GOP budget strategy, which was premised on the fantasy of balancing the budget in 10 years with no new revenues, is falling apart.
* OBAMA’S SPEECHES ON ECONOMY WON’T BREAK STALEMATE: With Obama set to deliver a series of speeches on the economy this week, the New York Times write-up offers a gloomy assessment of what’s ahead:
The economic speeches will not contain sweeping new proposals, senior administration officials said Monday. Nor are they intended to break the hardening stalemate on economic issues between the president and his Republican adversaries in Congress. Instead, they are largely repackaged economic proposals that the president has offered for years. Aides said they did not anticipate the speeches leading to a breakthrough with Republicans on looming fiscal fights.
Indeed, as noted here yesterday, the speeches may be better understood as an effort to reframe the debate in advance of yet another series of showdowns this fall over how much austerity to impose — showdowns that are unlikely to be resolved.
* IMMIGRATION REFORM PROPONENTS HOPE TO KEEP UP PRESSURE: Advocates for immigration reform are holding a series of events in coming days designed to keep the pressure on lawmakers, including a press conference against a GOP piecemeal reform; panels on the proper treatment of DREAMers; an evangelical day of prayer; and a lawmakers’ tour designed to build some momentum.
The question is whether proponents can match the energy opponents are expected to unleash over the August recess, and whether the media will hype opposition to reform at town halls into exaggerated impressions of widespread anti-reform grassroots rage.
* DEMS HAMMER MCCONNELL AS “GUARDIAN OF GRIDLOCK”: The Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Dems, is up with a new ad in Kentucky hitting Mitch McConnell as the “guardian of gridlock,” accusing him of “grinding the Senate to a halt,” and noting that he has lost control of his own caucus and can no longer serve his state effectively. The question is whether McConnell’s success in rendering government dysfunctional — in service of blocking the Obama agenda — can be turned into enough of a liability (he’s a creature of Washington) in a red state, where Republicans will paint Dem opponent Alison Lundegran Grimes as a stooge for that agenda.
* KENTUCKY GOP PRIMARY ALREADY GETTING NASTY: The Kentucky press reports that the barbs are already flying between McConnell and Tea Party opponent Matt Bevin. While the chances of a McConnell loss appear slim, Dems are hopeful that the primary could weaken McConnell enough to make a long-shot victory over McConnell a bit more plausible.
Meanwhile, Tea Party groups are slamming Senators for endorsing McConnell.
* FOX NEWS’ GRAYING AUDIENCE: A fascinating tidbit from Bill Carter:
Just how old is its audience? It is impossible to be precise because Nielsen stops giving an exact figure for median age once it passes 65. But for six of the last eight years, Fox News has had a median age of 65-plus and the number of viewers in the 25-54 year old group has been falling consistently, down five years in a row in prime time, from an average of 557,000 viewers five years ago to 379,000 this year. That has occurred even though Fox’s overall audience in prime time is up this year, to 2.02 million from 1.89 million three years ago.
David Leonhardt sees this as a “stark sign of GOP’s generational problems.”
* AND TODAY’S PLUM READS:
A nice piece from Detroit native Ron Fournier noting that the causes of the city’s collapse are — get this — complicated.
Peter Beinart on how John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are losing their grip on the GOP.
Why Obama should not pick Ray Kelly as his Homeland Security chief: They hold the exact opposite views on racial profiling.