National Journal reports this morning that Barack Obama has a new chance to sell ObamaCare after the Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional, but that “wishful thinking” has gotten in their way. In their second chance to win a messaging war, Michael Hirsh argues, Obama and his team are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory:
With just over four months to go before the election, and Republicans ravening to make health care a frontline issue, the Obama campaign still appears to be pursuing a “wishful thinking” strategy. They are simply wishing that the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature domestic achievement, would go away now that the Supreme Court has delivered what they hope is a “final answer,” to quote White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew. “I don’t think the American people want to have this debate again,” Lew said on Fox News Sunday, reflecting the “let’s move on” approach reported by National Journal’s Major Garrett, among others.
But the Republican Party clearly does intend to have this debate, all the way into November, and Lew’s tepid talking-points are a warning sign that the White House is, yet again, surrendering the message war on a central issue that even Obama partisans admit was poorly marketed the first time around, before and after ACA was signed into law in 2010. …
The opportunity to resell ACA exists. As my former Newsweek colleague Geoffrey Cowley, one of the most astute health-care journalists in the country, points out, “polls consistently show that more Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act than support it–not because they’ve evaluated and rejected it but because they don’t understand it.”
All due respect, but that’s a kind of “wishful thinking” all its own. Voters remained highly engaged in the health-care debate, and the media coverage given to ObamaCare was both broad and favorable. People who opposed it were routinely dismissed in media reports as angry extremists. The problem in the popularity of ObamaCare is that people wanted reform, but not a huge new entitlement bureaucracy and top-down mandates that wipe out choice. Voters rightly don’t understand how that will somehow be any different than the entitlement programs already in place that are pushing the country toward a fiscal cliff, and at the same time ordering Americans for the first time to buy a private-sector product on the basis of taking breath.
That’s not likely to change, even with a Supreme Court imprimatur. Indeed, a new Rasmussen poll taken over the weekend shows no movement at all on ObamaCare’s popularity or the demand for repeal:
The U.S. Supreme Court declared that President Obama’s health care law is constitutional, but they were unable to make it popular.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 52% of Likely U.S. Voters favor repeal of the health care law, while 39% are opposed. That’s little changed from a week ago. Indeed, support for repeal has barely budged since the law was passed.
The latest numbers include 44% who Strongly Favor repeal and 30% who are Strongly Opposed to it.
The internals show that Obama and his team remain on the wrong end of the debate, at least in terms of public opinion. Both men and women favor repeal (58/34 and 46/43, respectively), and other core demographics don’t show enough support to help. Younger voters oppose repeal, but only 44/41, and more strongly favor repeal (34%) than strongly oppose it (32%), and the other two age demos have majorities favoring repeal, with 53% of seniors strongly favoring repeal. Only 50% of black voters oppose repeal, with 28% undecided. Even in the lowest income bracked, repeal wins a plurality, 39/31.
When the question gets tied to the economy, the numbers look almost as bad for ObamaCare. A strong plurality of 43/27 believe a repeal would boost the economy (and not for bad reasons, either), a view shared by both men (52/25) and women (35/28), with younger voters only narrowly believing otherwise (31/34). Independents tend to agree with the overall result, 39/28, although somewhat less strongly.
Small wonder, then, that Barack Obama’s chief of staff Jack Lew wants to change the subject:
White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew touted the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the president’s healthcare reform bill Sunday and warned Republicans to “move on” and drop efforts to undo the legislation.
“I don’t think the American people want to have this debate again,” said Lew about GOP efforts to repeal the health bill on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t think they want to be pulled back into decades of debate to get to where we are. We now have a law, the law is constitutional, we should implement it.”
A majority of voters disagree — and have ever since Obama and Democrats pushed the bill into law over their objections. That’s what elections are for.