As #Benghazi fever rises among Republicans, the Hill reports this morning that the House GOP has “gone quiet” on Obamacare. There are no scheduled votes or hearings on the Affordable Care Act. Contacted by the Hill, most GOP campaign committees won’t say whether they will be launching any new attacks on the law.
As the Hill puts it: “The lack of action highlights the GOP’s struggle to adjust its message now that enrollment in the exchanges beat projections and the uninsured rate is going down.”
At the same time, the Hill notes that GOP operatives overseeing Senate races remain “conscious of the need to keep a drumbeat going against the law.” The question now: If Republican officials really are backing off on Obamacare, will the base go along?
A new CNN poll illustrates the situation nicely: It finds that far more Americans want to keep Obamacare than repeal it. At the same time, only majorities of Republicans want repeal and only majorities of Republicans think the law is already a failure.
The CNN poll finds that 49 percent of Americans want to keep the law with some changes, while another 12 percent want to keep it as is — a total of 61 percent. Meanwhile, only 18 percent want to repeal and replace the law, and another 20 percent want to repeal it, full stop — a total of 38 percent. That’s 61-38 for keeping rather than repealing the law. Among independents, that’s 55-44.
How is it possible that Americans can disapprove of Obamacare, but support keeping it? I’ve already laid out my theory of the case, and today’s polling appears to support it. Part of the answer lies in another question CNN asked. That finding shows that a total of 61 percent say either that it’s too soon to tell whether the ACA is a success or failure (49) or say that it’s a success (12). By contrast, 39 percent say it’s already a failure. That’s 61-39 in favor of those who are giving the law a chance to work over time. Among independents that’s 58-42.
The key is that those who want repeal and say the law has already failed are overwhelmingly Republican. Among Republicans only, the numbers are 62-38 for repealing over keeping the law. Among Republicans only, 67 percent say it’s a failure versus 32 percent who say it’s too soon to tell.
CNN’s new polling mirrors Kaiser’s recent finding that only Republicans support repeal and that only Republicans want the Obamacare debate to continue. And it’s a reminder that at this point, attacks on the law — such as they are, anyway — are all about keeping the base lathered up in advance of the midterm elections. But there are still six months to go, and already even some Republican officials appear to be realizing that the anti-Obamacare energy is draining away.
* DEMS STRONG IN THREE RED STATE RACES: A new batch of NBC/Marist polls finds Dem Mark Pryor with an 11 point lead in Arkansas, while the Kentucky and Georgia Senate races are extremely close:
In Arkansas, with less than six months until Election Day 2014, incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., leads Republican challenger Tom Cotton by 11 points among registered voters, 51 percent to 40 percent…In Georgia, Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is running neck and neck against all of her potential GOP opponents in November. And in Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is within one point of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell among registered voters, 46 percent to 45 percent.
The polling averages have Arkansas much closer, with Pryor up by only two points. Still, today’s new polling is a reminder that maybe, just maybe, all the GOP certainty about their pending Senate takeover is a bit premature. If Dems can hang on in Arkansas, the number of routes to a GOP majority dwindles. And it gets much harder if Dems can pick off either Georgia or Kentucky: Republicans would then probably have to sweep all seven red state races to win the Senate.
* OBAMACARE IS AWFUL. WHAT ABOUT KYNECT? Another fascinating nugget from the new NBC/Marist poll in Kentucky:
57 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable view of “Obamacare,” the shorthand commonly used to label the 2010 Affordable Care Act…By comparison, when Kentucky voters were asked to give their impression of “kynect,” the state exchange created as a result of the health care law, the picture was quite different. A plurality – 29 percent – said they have a favorable impression of kynect, compared to 22 percent who said they view the system unfavorably.
Call it Kynect and the number with an unfavorable view drops sharply (though there is far less recognition of what Kynect is). Reminder: One Kentucky Dem is attacking Mitch McConnell for wanting to repeal Kentucky Kynect, as opposed to Obamacare.
* WATCH HOW MEDICAID EXPANSION PLAYS IN GEORGIA: Meanwhile, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released over the weekend finds Dem Michelle Nunn with sizable leads over many GOP challengers (she is statistically tied with businessman David Perdue). It also finds that 40 percent say they are less likely to vote for Governor Nathan Deal because he didn’t expand Medicaid, while only 13 percent say they are more likely.
It’s a reminder that Dems can campaign aggressively on the Medicaid expansion, even in red states.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, BENGHAZI OVERREACH EDITION: GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, the head of the new select committee on Benghazi, on Fox News Sunday:
“We’re going to go wherever the facts take us. Facts are neither Republican nor Democrat. They are facts. And if we overplay our hand or if we engage in a process that is not fair, according to the American people, we will be punished as we should be for that.”
That’s a useful marker, one supposes. Unfortunately, as Sam Stein details, in the very next exchange, Gowdy articulated his number one question for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (why were we still in Benghazi?), and it turns out she has already answered it.
* WE ALREADY KNOW A GREAT DEAL ABOUT BENGHAZI “SCANDAL”: Glenn Kessler has a useful and comprehensive guide to everything we already know about what happened in Benghazi, and while he concludes that both sides have spun and dissembled, here’s what he says about the side that is launching yet another Congressional investigation into this affair:
With all due respect to Rep. Gowdy, the chairman of the new select House committee on the Benghazi attack, many of the questions he posed have already been answered — and fact-checked.
Perhaps, but for the GOP base, Benghazi is destined to bring down the Obama administration, and if this is all about keeping them enraged through election day…
* GOP FACES DEADLINE ON IMMIGRATION: GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart keeps trying to get his fellow House Republicans to face reality on immigration reform:
“If Congress doesn’t act by the August break, the president is going to do something. And once that happens…the possibility of any further negotiations — of any — disintegrate.”
That’s what I’ve been telling you. The question is whether House Republican leaders sense this as a deadline for themselves — in other words, the question is whether GOP leaders see this as their last chance to begin to repair their Latino problem before the next presidential election, and whether that matters to them.
* AND PRESSURE MOUNTS ON OBAMA OVER DRONE MEMOS: This is significant: Rand Paul publishes an op ed in the New York Times calling on the Obama administration to release the legal memos authorizing drone strikes written by David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the federal bench, again raising his profile around this issue and explicitly stating he agrees with the ACLU:
I believe that all senators should have access to all of these opinions. Furthermore, the American people deserve to see redacted versions of these memos so that they can understand the Obama administration’s legal justification for this extraordinary exercise of executive power…I agree with the A.C.L.U. that “no senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.”
Here’s another area where we may see a surprisingly large coalition of lefty and righty civil libertarian types emerge to force the administration’s hand.