Americans for Prosperity is out with new ads attacking Senate Dems over Obamacare, bringing their total spending to $35 million and counting. And yet, despite the tsunami of cash, there are no signs Republicans are winning the big argument over the health law. They aren’t necessarily losing the argument, either: What is really happening is that opinion remains conflicted and contradictory — the situation is far more complex than the media narrative has it.
This is revealed in a fresh way in the newly-released internals of the New York Times/Kaiser poll in four red states. The short version: More voters in those states oppose the idea of federal government-guaranteed universal health care. Yet majorities also support the basic goal of government action to expand coverage to those who need it — and support expanding Medicaid. Seems contradictory, right? Not really.
The poll finds that majorities or pluralities in these states don’t think the federal government’s responsibility is to provide access to affordable coverage to all Americans. In Arkansas it’s 55-38; in Kentucky it’s 48-43; and in Louisiana and North Carolina it’s 49-45. (Those last three are actually pretty close.)
And yet…when people are given a range of choices about the proper role for government in health care, one in keeping with what Obamacare actually does, the picture changes. Large majorities support either government giving people without workplace insurance financial assistance to buy private insurance, or government providing coverage as it does for seniors and the poor. Only small minorities say government should not be involved and that getting coverage is people’s own responsibility.
The total who envision one of those two government roles, versus those who see no role at all, breaks down as follows: Arkansas (55-36); Kentucky (63-29); Louisisana (58-35); and North Carolina (61-32).
And so, in Louisiana, voters support expanding Medicaid by 52-40 (which may explain why Mary Landrieu is campaigning aggressively on the idea). In North Carolina voters support it by 54-36 (here, too, Kay Hagan is likely to hit expected opponent Thom Tillis for opposing the expansion).
One other crucial point: Majorities or pluralities in those states believe the law has caused people to lose coverage, suggesting the Republican “horror story” argument is convincing people. And yet, majorities or pluralities in those states also believe it has reduced the number of people who are uninsured, and oppose repeal.
The point is not that Obamacare is a winner for Dems. Of course it isn’t. It’s probably a net negative. Disapproval remains higher than supporters anticipated. The nuances in opinion very well may not prevent Dems from losing the Senate. Rather, the point is that public opinion is complicated and in flux on the larger arguments underlying the debate. Americans for Prosperity is running its anti-Obamacare campaign with the explicit goal of delegitimizing the idea that government intervention can be a positive force in people’s lives. Surely it’s noteworthy, then, that after all those millions, it has not won that argument, even in red states where it has spent truly enormous sums of money.
* ANOTHER ROUND OF ANTI-OBAMACARE ADS FALLS FLAT: The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity has released four new ads, and Glenn Kessler takes them apart, finding that in three (in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Colorado) the use of stats to inflate the ranks of Obamacare victims stretch the truth. Tellingly, only one (in Louisiana) features an actual victim, and you’ll be startled to learn that AFP would not share enough info about his story to make factual evaluation of it possible.
It’s the latest round in the Incredible Shrinking Obamacare Sob Story.
* REPUBLICANS TAKING FEMALE VOTE SERIOUSLY IN 2014: David Drucker reports that Republican strategists are taking seriously the notion that Democrats could succeed in making further inroads among women in the 2014 elections with their emphasis on women’s economic issues.
Of course, the main pieces of evidence for this are: Republicans pushed back rhetorically on Dems over the Paycheck Fairness Act (without supporting it); and Terri Lynn Land is running an ad in Michigan scoffing at the “war on women” idea while saying exactly nothing about policy.
* WHAT TO WATCH FOR ON DEPORTATIONS: The Huffington Post has a good, deep dive into the Secure Communities Program and the mounting pressure on the Obama administration to end it, with local law enforcement agencies rebelling against the federal government’s demand that they hold undocumented immigrants. Reforming or ending this program could be one way the Obama administration acts to reform the deportation machinery. But one critic is skeptical:
“There are lots of reasons to be skeptical that the president and DHS are serious about this. Recent history suggests that enforcement reviews change very little on the ground. Senior officials make speeches, they issue memos out of headquarters, they sail them out like paper airplanes to the field and very little changes on the ground.”
It seems clear Obama will have to be seen taking some kind of action to ease deportations if Republicans do nothing by the August recess. The question is how much they will matter.
* DEAD HEAT IN COLORADO SENATE RACE: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Dem Senator Mark Udall is locked in a dead heat with his challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, 45-44. This one will be worth watching for clues as to whether Republicans are actually broadening the Senate map beyond the core red state battlegrounds. Notable:
The gender gap is wide as Udall leads 52-35 percent among women while Gardner leads 53-38 percent among men.
It’s a reminder why Dems will work so hard to make “Personhood” and women’s health issues front and center in this and other Senate races this fall.
* DEMS MUST MAKE AN ECONOMIC CASE IN 2014: E.J. Dionne has a good column explaining that Dems need to broaden the argument past Obamacare to one over who has a real agenda to promote shared prosperity and who doesn’t, with an eye on getting out core voters in 2014, but also keeping in mind the long term:
The Democrats’ short-term needs in 2014 point to a long-term imperative for progressives: They must embrace both an attractive set of policies to promote shared economic growth and a straightforward critique of a conservative economic narrative that sees smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation as keys to prosperity….shared growth will be achieved only through affirmative steps by government. The 2014 elections will hang on many tactical decisions. But above all, they underscore how urgent it is for center and left alike to make a sustained and credible argument that individual prosperity requires thoughtful public action. It’s a case the liberal base wants to hear and that swing voters need to find compelling.
* AND IS GOP DOOMED TO BECOME A REGIONAL PARTY? A must read from Nate Cohn, who details just how dependent the GOP is becoming on southern whites, though he also sees peril for Democrats in their continuing weakness in the region. Note these stats:
A record 41 percent of Republican voters in the 2012 election hailed from the South. Those voters elected more than half of all House Republicans in 2012 — the first time that Southerners have represented a majority of the House Republican Caucus. They have since blocked establishment-led efforts on an immigration overhaul…The Republicans are not doomed to become a regional party. But…the road to the nomination without the South, which holds such a large share of the party’s elected officials and voters, is narrow and long.
The interesting thing here is that the degree to which House Republicans are cossetted away in safe districts, insulated from national currents of public opinion and demographic change, could be acting as a disincentive to efforts to broaden the party’s national appeal.