The Post reports:

A top Democrat acknowledged Thursday that President Obama’s health-care bill hurt his party in 2010. And a new study suggests it cost the Democrats something pretty specific: their House majority.

“It was clearly a liability in the last election in terms of the public’s fear,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday during a briefing with reporters.

The study, by five professors from institutions across the country, looks at the health-care bill alongside other contentious votes in the 111th Congress and determines that, more so than the stimulus or the cap-and-trade energy bill, it cost Democrats seats. In fact, they lost almost exactly the number of seats that decided the majority.

Whoops. That’s a high political cost for something that may very well be unconstitutional. The study is confirmation of what many conservatives knew to be the case. Unlike their liberal counterparts, they did not avert their eyes from polling showing how unpopular Obamacare was.

Obamacare has gone from a “historic achievement” that would help Democrats win in 2010 to the cause of their lost majority to — the Democrats dearly hope — a non-issue in 2012. But Republicans should do their best to make sure that Steny Hoyer is wrong when he says that Democrats have “dissipated the opposition” and that Obamacare won’t be “as fertile soil as [Republicans] had two years ago.” (Rather an odd formulation for something so historic, isn’t it?)

In any event, Mitt Romney, as he pulls away from his ankle-nipping opponents, should begin to focus more intently on Obamacare. As we’ve reported, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the taxes, the impact on the debt and the drag on small-business growth and hiring are all negative aspects of Obamacare that Romney should emphasize. For obvious reasons, Rick Santorum wants to argue that with Romney as the nominee the GOP would be “giving away” the issue of Obamacare. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Indeed, there is a good argument that Obamacare is a critical part of Romney’s overall message: Obama’s policy choices are rendering this ”recovery” unusually slow and weak.

Romney is on solid ground on the basic argument that Obama’s recovery is much more tepid than the Reagan recovery. Ed Carson (h/t Jim Pethokoukis) explains:

The previous jobs recession record — 47 months — came during and after the comparatively mild 2001 recession, which saw unemployment climb to only 6.3%. The average job recovery time since 1980 is 29 months, not including the current slump.

The labor market won’t truly return to health until some 10 million positions are created to rehire all those who lost their jobs and to absorb new workers.

The longest jobs recession in decades coincides, not coincidentally, with the longest stretch of anemic economic performance on record. . . .

After the severe 1981-82 recession, the U.S. economy enjoyed a five-quarter stretch of 7% or more — following a 5.1% annualized gain.

The U.S. economy is up just 6.2% above the level at the end of the recession vs. 14.9% in the 10 quarters after the 1981-82 slump.

President Obama may take hope that the U.S. economy has picked up from near-stall speed to a modest pace in recent months. But after the mild 1990-91 downturn, the U.S. economy rose tepidly for a few quarters before growing more than 4% in every quarter of 1992. That still wasn’t enough to keep the first President Bush from losing to Bill Clinton.

Romney should make the simple argument: Get Obama out of the way — and with him Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank legislation, a chunk of discretionary spending and the planned tax hikes — and instead put in place his agenda — tax cuts, entitlement reform, reduced regulation, and domestic energy development — and the economy will take off. Obama, in other words, represents the status quo (a health-care plan we don’t like high unemployment, massive debt); Romney offers something better. Now that is a positive, conservative message that the Republican Party, and maybe even the country, can get behind.