Obamacare Might Not Be The GOP’s 2014 Silver Bullet Anymore


Evidence is emerging that the electoral landscape surrounding Obamacare is a little more complex than previously thought. While Republican politicians have struggled to match their rhetoric to Obamacare’s new reality, the law seems to be more of a wash between the parties than previously thought when it comes to motivating voters.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday found that Republicans and Democrats are almost evenly split on the importance of Obamacare to their vote: 73 percent of Republicans said the law would be important, and 67 percent of Democrats said the same.

The GOP still holds an intensity edge on the law — 26 percent say that Obamacare would be “very” important to their vote, as opposed to ‘fairly” important, while only 9 percent of Democrats said it was very important — but the numbers undermine the notion that the law is a clear-cut winner for Republicans.

For months now, most political watchers had seen the GOP’s 2014 electoral strategy as pretty simple: Trash Obamacare, turn out the base (which is more likely to vote in midterms, anyway) and cruise to control of the Senate. And poll after poll had suggested that might hold true, even as the law recovered from its disastrous launch and beat enrollment expectations.

Democratic strategists have regularly conceded as much in recent months. “People strongly believe that it’s being used for base intensity, for driving base turnout,” Stan Greenberg, a top Democratic pollster, told TPM of the GOP’s anti-Obamacare strategiy. “People are very alert to that.”

This is just one poll, and the Post doesn’t have any historical data on this particular question. But the increasing rhetorical waffling by GOPers since Obamacare surged to 8 million enrollees suggests that the party knows it has a problem.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a House GOP leader, admitted that Obamacare repeal was unlikely. Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), now vying for New Hampshire’s Senate seat, offered some impressive word salad when asked about the law’s Medicaid expansion. And then last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said his state should be allowed to keep its Obamacare exchange while still repealing the law — uncharted territory for the GOP leader.

It all adds up to a big shake-up for the 2014 conventional wisdom about Obamacare.