When faced with the niggling problem that polls show a majority of Americans oppose repealing Obamacare, some of the law’s foes like to claim those polls are problematic because they offer a choice between “fixing” and “repealing” the law. This, they say, biases responses in favor of “fix,” because people like fixing things, and at any rate, Obamacare can’t be fixed by definition.
So this new Bloomberg News poll will pose an additional problem to those who simply refuse to accept the reality that, while disapproval of the law remains high, the American people still want to stick with it:
What is your opinion of the health care law?
It should be repealed: 32
It may need small modifications, but we should see how it works: 56
It should be left alone: 10
So 66 percent support giving the law a chance to work with possible small modifications or leaving it alone, versus only 32 percent who want it done away with. This seems like fair wording.
Meanwhile, the poll also finds that 39 percent support the law, while 11 percent oppose it because it did not go far enough — a total of 51 percent, versus 42 percent who oppose the law because it went too far. Some have raised legitimate questions about the validity of this particular line of questioning. But taken together, all these numbers seem to support the idea that the electorate remains polarized around whether to approve or disapprove of the law, while clearly supporting keeping it in place.
Meanwhile, there is broad support for the law’s individual provisions. Sixty-five percent support banning insurance industry discrimination against preexisting conditions; 55 percent support eliminating lifetime caps on insurance company payouts for health care; and 75 percent support allowing children up to 26 to stay on parents’ policies. As always, the mandate is unpopular, but even here it’s not too bad, at 46-52. (This is only one poll, but its general findings on repeal and the popularity of the law’s provisions have been confirmed in polling for years now.)
Of course, this is national polling, so it doesn’t go to the state of opinion on the law in red states, where battle for control of the Senate will be decided. And there the law will probably remain a weight on vulnerable Dems. But even in the contested Senate races, there are signs GOP candidates no longer see public opinion on the law in the simplistic terms that national Republican operatives — and their friends in the press — have spun out. Multiple GOP Senate candidates are mouthing support for the law’s general goals and are refusing to take a position on the Medicaid expansion — things they would not have to do if the law were nothing but a slam-dunk certain winner for Republicans.
More broadly, these national numbers are the latest sign that Republicans are not winning the general argument over the law, even if Democrats aren’t winning it either. And they once again undercut the notion that Obamacare is the long term political disaster and unequivocal repudiation of liberal governance Republicans claim it is.
UPDATE: One additional key finding from the new Bloomberg poll:
Does a candidate’s support for the law make you more likely or less likely to vote for the candidate?
More likely: 38
Less likely: 39
Wouldn’t matter: 19
Yes, I know, this is probably different in red states, and intensity is on the side of opponents. Still, this again raises the possibility that the law’s political impact could prove overstated.
* ELECTORATE MORE POLARIZED THAN EVER? There’s a lot of chatter this morning about Pew’s big new study documenting high levels of polarization in our politics. This is the key finding:
Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades. These trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life….ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past. As a result, ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished: Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.
Time has a good summary of the Pew study in chart form, documenting: “Americans are becoming either more liberal or conservative.” And: “Democrats and Republicans more ideologically divided.” And “More Democrats and Republicans view the other party as a threat to the nation.”
I would point out, however, that on many of the issues themselves, the American people aren’t really all that polarized. Partisanship, it seems, ends up trumping issues.
* ELIZABETH WARREN TO CAMPAIGN FOR ALISON GRIMES: The Massachusetts Senator announces on Chris Hayes’ show that she will campaign in Kentucky, in the wake of the successful Mitch McConnell/GOP filibuster of her bill to provide student loan relief paid for by the Buffett Rule.
Here’s another issue where Grimes will seek to draw a stark econonmic contrast with McConnell, arguing that he is prioritizing protecting the wealth of millionaires and billionaires over helping ordinary Kentuckians. It’s also in keeping with Grimes’ efforts to create a sense of excitement around her candidacy that could perhaps insulate it from the national midterm drop-off problem Dems face.
* MORE GOOD NEWS ABOUT OBAMACARE: Jonathan Cohn brings us a new study showing a roughly 40 percent decline in the number of uninsured people in Minnesota, which help confirm reports of a nationwide drop in the same due to Obamacare. Foes who refuse to acknowledge any good news may crow that much of the drop was due to the expansion of Medicaid, but as Cohn notes, this once again demonstrates just what many Republican states refusing to opt in to the expansion are denying to their own constituents.
* WHAT CANTOR’S LOSS SAYS ABOUT OUR POLITICS: The New York Times has a good piece explaining what the rage of GOP primary voters, as evidenced in David Brat’s victory, will mean for the remainder of the Obama presidency:
That fury will ensure a gridlocked capital for at least the rest of this year and perhaps for the remainder of Mr. Obama’s presidency. It also raises new doubts about Washington’s ability to conduct the most basic functions of government, suggesting the possibility of another round, or rounds, of brinkmanship on funding the government and measures to keep the country from defaulting on its debt. Should Republicans take control of the Senate and retain the House this November, even these most fundamental acts could prove difficult because of fear among Republican members that any hint of cooperation with the president will encourage a primary challenge.
Well, okay, “Washington” cannot conduct the most basic functions of government, but that’s because today’s GOP has lost the ability to enter into constructive governing. As our next item shows.
* WHAT CANTOR’S LOSS SAYS ABOUT TODAY’S ‘NIHILIST’ GOP: Norman Ornstein has a terrific column explaining that Eric Cantor’s defeat at the hands of Tea Partyer will only drive the GOP further in the direction of the post-policy nihilism it had already been succumbing to:
If anything, Cantor’s defeat will make leaders even more gun-shy about moving to real solutions or new approaches. The fact is that, even before Cantor’s defeat, Republican House and Senate leaders had shown no interest in operationalizing a bold or innovative policy agenda. Maybe that is a short-term strategy, based on the belief that success in the midterms ahead will be driven far more by a reaction against the Obama status quo than on a contrast with an alternative agenda…But given the current dynamics of the Republican Party…as it is now constituted, new ideas coming from pointy-headed intellectuals (who will not be viewed as saviors by nihilists) are going to require a whole lot more time to germinate.
Republicans will win big this fall, thanks to the map, but this inevitability may only encourage the party to put off developing an affirmative agenda that would broaden its appeal to the voter groups that increasingly matter in national elections.
* AND TEA PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ENCOURAGED BY BRAT WIN: I’m sure Democratic operatives thinking about 2016 will not mind this all that much:
Tea Party-backed senators eyeing White House bids in 2016 are encouraged by the victory of an underfunded challenger to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a grandee of the GOP establishment….Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio argued David Brat’s 11-point win showed that conservative principles can triumph over fundraising might and special-interest backing.
The alternative interpretation, offered by GOP Rep. Pete King, is that if the Brat win empowers the Ted Cruz wing of the party, it could relegate the GOP to “permanent minority” status in presidential elections.