The news broke (and broke via the Washington Post) late Tuesday night: The Obama Administration has decided, yet again, to extend the enrollment deadline for people to sign up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans quickly pounced. “Another day, another ObamaCare delay from the same Obama Administration that won’t work with Republicans to help Americans suffering from the unintended consequences of the Democrats’ failed healthcare law," said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. "Democrats in leadership may say they are doubling down on ObamaCare but you have to wonder how many more unilateral delays their candidates running in 2014 can withstand." House Speaker John Boehner was more blunt at a press event Wednesday; "What the hell is this?," said Boehner. "A joke?"
Democrats were, largely, silent.
It's hard to argue that this latest delay is good news for President Obama or, more importantly in the near term, Democrats on the ballot this November. But, there's also reason to believe that the idea that this latest extension of the enrollment deadline will have less of a negative impact on the political playing field than many people in both parties seem to believe.
The reason for that lack of impact is simple. Opinions about Obamacare are virtually set in stone at this point. If you like the law, there's no one piece of information that is going to change your mind. And, if you hate the law, nothing that happens is going to make you hate it. any more. The Kaiser Family Foundation has been conducting polling on the law for the last several years and its data shows the remarkable consistency of support and opposition to the law.
"One more extension means less than what some people will hear as one more problem," said one senior Democratic strategists, granted anonymity to speak candidly. "For Obamacare right now no news is good news and good news is good news. Delays and extensions don't fall into either category."
The logic here is that the same consistency in the poll numbers that worry Democrats -- opposition to the law has outstripped support regularly for the last several years -- provides the party a bit of solace when it comes to delays like the one announced Tuesday night. If you are a Mary Landrieu, running as a Democrat for reelection to the Senate in Louisiana, for example, you are going to get attacked for voting for the ACA by Republicans. That would have happened whether or not this latest delay happened or not. And, this latest delay isn't likely to persuade people -- on either side -- of whether the law is a good thing or a bad thing. Minds are made up. The attack ads are already written.
"Attitudes toward the ACA are pretty much baked in," acknowledged prominent Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. But, he did add that "the Administration's further steps to delay implementation step is another example of how 'half-baked' the execution of the law has been."
That's an intriguing point and one that does have the potential to create more political problems for Democrats. If the Administration's handling of the law (from the disastrous rollout to last night's announcement) undermines confidence in the President and his ability to handle the affairs of government, that could well be a major problem for his party at the ballot box.
On Obamacare, however, public opinion is settled. Delays, changes and the like won't change whether you like or hate the law.