I’ve already explained where we are on the Obamacare policy front. TPM Reader JL does a very good job explaining how the politics of Obamacare changes overnight on November 5th.
On the politics of Obamacare, I think it’s important to realize how dramatically things will change on November 5th. We can debate how well anti Obamacare zealotry will work in the midterms, but I think most knowledgeable, reasonable observers would agree on some version of the following: if the goal is to preserve the majority in the House and to get 51 seats in the Senate, it will work tolerably well. Not a huge upside but most likely there’s enough anti Obamacare sentiment in the GOP base and limited enough pro Obamacare passion that for these limited goals, the old Obamacare playbook will work.
But all of that changes on November 4th. The Senate in 2014 will be decided in places like NC, AK, LA by an electorate that skews older and non-Hispanic. The presidential race will be decided in VA, PA, FL, OH with an electorate that includes a full measure of young and Hispanic voters. Very, very, very different. And if the pundit class doesn’t wake up to this fact on November 5th, they’ll wake up to it soon thereafter. At the same time, Obamacare performance will continue to improve. And, Hillary will be out there touting it.
It’s important to recognize that there is a feedback loop between the current election cycle and the narrative that surrounds policy debates. Until November 4th, media coverage of Obamacare will be colored by the fact that anti Obamacare zealotry seems to be a winning issue (if only to a modest degree) for the GOP. As a result any positive news is presented in a very measured way and balanced by comments about the disastrous rollout and poor polling. Come November 5th, it will be clear that the repeal-or-die crowd looms as an albatross around the neck of the GOP 2016 nominee. Meantime Hillary will be passionately articulating the benefits of the law and Democratic enthusiasm will be spiking. Media coverage in turn will become much more positive and the politics will catch up to the policy success. GOP contenders will be forced to bow at the altar of repeal-or-die. But this will be perceived as badly out of step with the voters who will decide the 2016 presidential election. Media coverage of the GOP stance will initially be cautiously critical but grow harsher as 2015 progresses. By late 2015 the pundits who determine conventional wisdom will caustically mock the GOP’s stance on Obamacare. At that point the politics and the policy success will be fully in sync.