The Associated Press reports that the White House is privately urging Congressional Democrats who are upset about the Obamacare rollout to refocus on the economy. Obama’s campaign pollster, Joel Benenson, is distributing a new memo among Dems, arguing that even at this moment of terrible press for the health law, the voters’ preoccupation remains elsewhere.
A Dem source sends over the memo. Tthe argument is that Dems must not let Beltway political spin wars pull them off of political turf that remains favorable to them:
Our data continues to show, unequivocally, that the nation’s economic health remains voters’ overriding priority. Even amid a cascade of news cycles focused on the Affordable Care Act, Syria, the government shutdown and the NSA, voters’ primary focus has never shifted from their economic well-being…We need to align Democrats with a future-oriented agenda that focuses on the issues that matter to families across the country — strengthening the economy, creating jobs, investing in education, promoting a living wage — and not getting caught up in inside-the-Beltway political dramas that have little bearing on their immediate well-being.
Benenson also insists his polling shows Democrats have the upper hand, if the argument over the economy is framed in this way:
In a forced choice question, just 39 percent of voters and 23 percent of independents agree: The way to get our country back on track is to get government out of the way and unleash the power of businesses and markets to create jobs by lowering taxes and eliminating needless regulations.
While 59 percent overall and 65 percent of independents agree with the alternate choice: The way to get our country back on track is to get the public and private sector working together to invest in manufacturing, technology, small businesses and education to create jobs our country needs and train our children to succeed in the new economy.
Whatever you think of these findings, it’s noteworthy that the White House is making this case to Congressional Democrats. It’s being widely argued by pundits that Obamacare’s failures risk undermining faith in activist government in ways that will work against Dems beyond the health law. I think those warnings are overstated, but it’s possible Congressional Dems will take them seriously. The argument from the White House appears designed to stiffen Dem spines, by urging them to remember the debate over government intervention in the economy — as framed in the 2012 campaign — still plays their way, if they keep the focus on the big picture argument.
Republicans have telegraphed that they are going to wage a massive war of anecdotes against the law by highlighting tales of people adversely impacted by it. The larger message of the GOP campaign is that Big Government Overreach inevitably causes massive disruptions while only making things worse.
This GOP war of anecdotes has a psy-ops dimension; it’s designed to spook Congressional Dems into thinking they need to abandon the law before it is too late. And there’s little question that the health law is dropping fast in polls. The new Kaiser tracking poll finds the percentage who view it favorably has slipped to 33 percent.
But as Aaron Blake points out, the poll also finds that a plurality don’t expect the law to impact them unfavorably, so perhaps the GOP war of anecdotes has yet to rattle many Americans. Perhaps mindful of this, so far Congressional Dems are sticking to a “keep and fix” message, which frames the choice in roughly the same big picture way the White House is urging.
The law, obviously, could still fail in the long run, which would be a disaster for Dems. But as Brian Beutler spells out, if it does work out over time, the current Dem framing of the argument could very well play out in a way that catches Obamacare’s foes — who are irrevocably convinced the law has already collapsed, and taken the entire liberal project with it — completely off guard.