When it comes to Obamacare, Republicans have the wind at their backs.
The landmark health-reform law passed in 2010 has never been very popular and always highly partisan, but a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a group of once loyal Democrats has been steadily turning against Obamacare: Democrats who are ideologically moderate or conservative.
Just after the law was passed in 2010, fully 74 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats supported the federal law making changes to the health-care system. But just 46 percent express support in the new poll, down 11 points in the past year. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, have continued to support the law at very high levels – 78 percent in the latest survey. Among the public at large, 42 percent support and 49 percent oppose the law, retreating from an even split at 47 percent apiece last July.
This only adds to Republicans’ sense that the momentum is with them, if not for repealing Obamacare entirely then at least disabling it or using it to their advantage in the 2014 elections.
Don Stewart, communications director for Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said in an e-mail: “It’s the opposite of what Sen. Schumer promised wary Dems in 2009: ‘When people see what is in this bill and when people see what it does, they will come around.'” He observed, “Sen. McConnell said the House votes to delay this failed law were “an important first step to giving all Americans and all businesses what they really need: which is not a temporary delay for some, but a permanent delay for everyone under this law. The politicians pushing Obamacare might not like that. But they’re not the ones who are going to have to live with this thing the same way most Americans will.”
Senate Republicans have already demanded Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) take up the House measures to delay both the individual mandate and the employer mandate (the latter to confirm the president’s unilateral action). If Reid relents, that again puts red-state Democrats in the hot seat; if he refuses, Republicans will surely use this as fodder in the 2014 election to argue the Senate leadership is out of touch with the country. Actually, they are increasingly out of touch with Democrats more generally.
The fights on Obamacare offer a preview of the fall battle when some Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, threaten to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. In the absence of bill to replace it with something else that threat may not get far. Meanwhile, Republicans accuse the president of wanting to shut down the government unless he gets tax hikes. Frankly if the government did shut down, it would very shortly test the president’s will; neither Obamacare nor a tax hike are likely to create a backlash against Republicans. But then, the game of blame-the-other-guy hasn’t yet begun.