“I think that health care, over time is going to become more popular,” said White House senior advisor David Axelrod when asked about Obamacare’s impact on the midterm elections.
It was a tacit admission that the just-passed overhaul of the nation’s insurance system was certainly not going to help in the near term. Democrats tried everything they could to mitigate the electoral impacts of health care reform. The way the law was written almost all of the more popular aspects of the bill were implemented right away while the revenue raisers (including tax increases) and bureaucracy growth were to be phased in later.
This was strategically done to win over the public before they were walloped with brand new taxes in hopes of saving their majorities in Congress.
That didn’t quite go as planned.
“It was clearly a liability in the last election in terms of the public’s fear,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said in a recent briefing with reporters.
And if one man’s opinion isn’t enough, a recent study conducted by five prominent political scientists on the electoral impact of Obamacare should seal the debate.
“It was never going to be a good year for the majority party given the number of marginal seats they had to defend, the weak economy, and the president’s middling approval ratings, but few observer thought they would lose 63 House seats,” the researchers write. “Our analysis suggests one possible reason for these losses: health care reform. Democratic incumbents who supported health care reform were perceived by many of their constituents as more liberal than the individual constituents themselves. And largely because of this ideological gap between representative and constituents, Democrats who supported health care reform received fewer votes.”
It’s a startling conclusion.
Indeed, the study predicts that passage of Obamacare reduced the number of House Democrats by 25 seats – enough to cost them control of the chamber.
As Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin writes, “that’s a high political cost for something that may very well be unconstitutional.” The case will soon be before the Supreme Court, threatening to open up a wound Democrats were hoping would heal before the all-important 2012 elections.
Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, it is clear that the court of public opinion already believes the law to be unconstitutional and poor policy.
A new Gallup poll finds that 72 percent of Americans believe that the law’s keystone provision – the individual mandate to purchase health insurance – is unconstitutional. Somewhat astonishingly, that includes a majority (56 percent) of Democrats.”
The poll likewise reveals that only 24 percent of Americans believe Obamacare will make their family’s health care situation better while 34 percent believe it will make no difference and a plurality (38 percent) believe it will actually make things worse.
Given the law’s negative impact in the 2010 midterms and persistent unpopularity, expect to see Democrats attempt to ignore the law altogether in the coming months. But voters shouldn’t forget the law that Democrats, Obama included, once labeled as their “signature achievement.” This is one bill that they shouldn’t be able to run away from.