The implosion of the GOP's all-or-nothing assault on Obamacare might have started on Election Night 2010. Republicans thought they had been validated in their relentless attacks on the law, swept to huge victories in the House. Four years ago, it seemed unthinkable that they would ever waver.
As recently as last fall, conservatives felt as confident as they'd ever been when the federal health insurance exchange HealthCare.gov failed miserably in its first days. It reinvigorated their faith in fighting the law after the U.S. Supreme Court and 2012 presidential election dealt that thinking a serious blow.
But since the heady days of cancelled policies and a balky website, the political viability of absolutist repeal has been on a downward spiral. It was probably a decline made inevitable when President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012, which ensured that repeal would at least be vetoed for another four years. But that decline has been slow enough that it can be difficult to detect.
Even though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who fancies himself to be a thought leader in the party, still tweets #FullRepeal with regularity, he's become an increasingly lonely voice. The use of Obamacare as an effective Republican attack looks almost at its end. It's been a long time coming.
"It really is extraordinary in a lot of ways. Republicans were absolutely convinced that the antipathy toward the ACA would be the ticket to victory," Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM. "Now they still may have a ticket to victory, but it's not going to be that."
Ornstein called the GOP's singular focus on attacking Obamacare -- and inability to foresee that it would eventually collapse on them -- "a textbook case of mass psychology."
"They basically worked themselves up into a frenzy over the notion that this was a government takeover of health care and socialism," he said. "I think they convinced themselves that this was so awful, that they denied any objective reality."
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