The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Morning Plum: Conventional wisdom on Obamacare is changing. Really.

It’s good to see more news orgs picking up on a reality that has been apparent for some time: While Dems will probably continue to be weighed down by Obamacare, the politics of the law do not uniformly favor Republicans, who have boxed themselves into a problematic position of their own on the issue.

Today’s Wall Street Journal features two pieces that portray the politics of Obamacare in a more nuanced way than the cartoonish political narrative favored by Republicans — and some “neutral” commentators — has allowed. The first reports that multiple Dem candidates are now more confident in trumpeting the law’s benefits and attacking Republicans over the real-world consequences of repeal.

The second piece reports that Republicans are slowly evolving in their approach to the politics of the law, opting for a more “nuanced” strategy that doesn’t place repeal front and center anymore. As GOP pollster Bill McInturff puts it, Republicans will need to “have a bill of particulars about what hasn’t worked.”

That is a polite way of saying that the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like — is a bust.

At this point it is broadly accepted that repeal is unpopular, that this fact can co-exist with disapproval of the law, and that this puts some pressure on Republicans to offer their own health reform agenda and/or to pay lip service to the law’s popular goals. However, it is not yet broadly acknowledged that multiple Republican candidates who are trying to deal with this problem have stumbled into a series of equivocations, evasions, and outright policy gibberish that amounts to a story all its own.

This blog has already documented how candidates like Scott Brown, Tom Cotton, Terri Lynn Land and Thom Tillis continue to evade core questions about the Medicaid expansions in their states and about how they’d accomplish the general goals Obamacare accomplishes — which they profess support for — without all the Obama tyranny stuff they continue to campaign against. This still hasn’t broadly registered.

But this may change, now that Mitch McConnell has committed an epic evasion of his own. McConnell won’t say what should happen to Kynect — the state exchange which has expanded coverage to over 400,000 and is more popular than the hated Obummercare — even as he continues to demand the law’s repeal.

McConnell’s latest clarification on this issue is instructive. He continues to avoid the core question of whether the hundreds of thousands of people who have gained coverage through Kynect should lose it under his plan to repeal Obamacare “root and branch.” That the leader of Senate Republicans has been reduced to such policy ridiculousness really should rip the lid off the big underlying story here. Republicans remain unable to mount an even remotely credible or coherent policy response to the fundamental questions this debate raises about how,  or whether, government should act to expand health care to the sick and poor. If Obamacare were the massive long-term political disaster and epic repudiation of liberal governance Republicans claim it is, wouldn’t it be a tad easier for them to navigate those questions?

* OBAMA DELAYS EXECUTIVE ACTION ON DEPORTATIONS: Officials have announced that they will delay the rollout of Obama’s planed executive action on deportations, to give House Republicans space for one last chance to move on immigration reform:

Senior White House officials said the president was worried that any action would be viewed by House Republicans as an abuse of executive power and would fuel the already intense opposition to a more long-lasting solution to the country’s immigration problems…Mr. Obama decided to put off any recommendations arising from Mr. Johnson’s review of deportation policy to give lawmakers one more chance to negotiate a compromise on an immigration overhaul.

It remains to be seen whether being responsive to GOP anger over Obama’s possible use of executive authority will bear fruit, given that his conduct doesn’t actually have anything to do with Republicans’ inaction, which is the result of their own divisions over the issue.

* CANTOR A CHIEF OBSTACLE TO IMMIGRATION REFORM: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is circulating a flyer in his GOP primary that touts his opposition to the Democrats’ “amnesty bill,” which would “give six million illegal aliens citizenship” and “ignore the rule of law in this country.”

The parallel drawn between immigration reform and “ignoring the rule of law” confirms, once again, that the primary obstacle to reform is the refusal of House Republicans to embrace any form of legal status on any set of terms, even ones suggested by them. Also see Brian Beutler’s piece arguing that John Boehner is just pretending to want immigration reform to keep the GOP’s big business donors happy.

* GARY PETERS LEADING IN MICHIGAN: A pair of new polls shows Dem Gary Peters leading Republican Terri Lynn Land for Senate in Michigan. The Free Press poll finds Peters up six, 44-38, and the Detroit News poll finds him up four, 39-35.

Both polls show Peters ahead among women, by eight and 14 points respectively. This, despite the fact that some folks praised Land’s recent ad rebuffing Dem suggestions of a GOP “war on women” (which didn’t actually address any issues of importance to women). Look for Personhood and other women’s health issues to be key in this race.

* BREAKING: CHAMBER SAYS NEW EPA REGS WILL KILL JOBS: You’ll be startled to learn that a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce study finds that the coming EPA rules curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants could cost the economy $50 billion per year:

While the Chamber isn’t taking a position on the proposal before its release, the dire economic warnings in its analysis shows that that lobbying powerhouse is unlikely to back off opposition to the Obama administration’s efforts to fight climate change. Environmental groups such as the NRDC say that the EPA’s pledge to give states wide leeway will limit the costs, which could be offset by lower electric bills for consumers as utilities become more efficient.

Yes, but the details won’t matter. Republicans and business groups are likely to portray the new EPA rules as job crushing Big Gummint pretty much no matter what they actually say.

* PUBLIC SIDES WITH HILLARY AGAINST KARL ROVE: A new Washington Post poll finds that 66 percent of Americans disapproves of Karl Rove’s raising questions about Hillary Clinton’s age and health,” a position shared by 64 percent of independents and 67 percent of moderates.

However, Republicans are evenly divided on the question, with 45 percent of them approving of Rove’s approach and 46 percent disapproving, a reminder that there is a shriveled hard core out there with whom this sort of stuff resonates.

* AND NO END TO GOP DISSEMBLING ABOUT BENGHAZI: Relatedly, Glenn Kessler takes apart Rand Paul’s latest: The claim that the White House “couldn’t find a plane” for special operations forces in Tripoli, because officials were too busy concocting “spin” about the video being the cause of the attack.

Of course, Paul offered this claim on Fox News, and as always, this stuff is meant mainly for consumption within the Conservative Entertainment Complex, so the facts don’t matter in the least. This doesn’t bode well for the coming #Benghazi probe.

What else?