National Journal published two stories late last week that immediately rocketed ’round the lefty blogosphere. The first argued that Obamacare was on a fabulous “winning streak;” the second followed up on the same theme, asserting that conservative critics of the law have sustained a credibility hit as a result of all this supposedly great news. (Our own Ed Morrissey was even cited as an example hyperbolic overreach — and everyone knows Ed’s reputation is a reckless hothead who’s prone to wild exaggeration). I responded to the latter piece yesterday at Townhall, addressing “correspondent” Lucia Graves’ arguments in some detail. In doing so, I chose not to address some of her sloppiest claims, such as the notion that Obamacare opponents predicted that “nobody would enroll.” The president, coincidentally, offered the exact same straw man analysis at his Thursday press conference. Speaking of which, Obama’s central theme in the briefing room was that the national debate regarding Obamacare is now “over.” Because he says so. A new poll from Fox News indicates that voters disagree. Note well that this nationwide survey was conducted in mid-April, two weeks after Obama first began spiking the enrollment football and reaping thinly-disguised “Obamacare comeback!” headlines in the media. Winning streak:
Stasis. Another Obamacare-related question asked registered voters whether the law would be an significant factor in their 2014 voting decisions. Nearly one in five said it would be the single biggest factor, with an additional 54 percent calling it an “important factor.” Less than a quarter of respondents said Obamacare was either a small or non-factor to their vote. A recent USA Today poll revealed that the more a given voter cares about the new law, the more likely he or she is to oppose it:
In the survey, taken after President Obama announced a surprising 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health care through the law’s exchanges, more than eight in 10 registered voters say a candidate’s stance on the law will be an important factor in determining their vote. A 54% majority call it very important. By 2-1, those who rate the issue as very important disapprove of the law.
The new Fox survey confirms those trends, almost to the decimal point. Respondents also said they’re more likely to back a candidate who pledges to “fight against” Obamacare (53 percent) than “fight for” it (39 percent). Among independents, that gap is a yawning 25 points. How will Democrats spin that one? So even as the president smugly decrees this issue settled, he’s discovering doesn’t have the power to decide such things. In fact, his powers of persuasion on this issue breached the diminishing returns threshold long ago. He is basically incapable of moving public opinion on Obamacare, thanks in large part to the one-two punch of a catastrophic roll-out, and “lie of the year-level” broken promises. His advisers have been privately conceding this point, which renders the media’s “winning streak” narrative even more hacktastic:
In briefing for reporters earlier today, SAOs said there’s nothing the WH can do to change opinions of the law while Obama is in office.
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 1, 2014
In that sense, maybe the debate really is over — just not in the way Obama means. I’ll leave you with the New York Times fretting over Democrats’ “vexing” political dilemma:
When Franklin D. Roosevelt established Social Security, he created generations of loyal Democrats. When Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, he built on that legacy, particularly with older Americans. And when George W. Bush instituted a new prescription drug benefit for Medicare, it helped reclaim elderly voters for Republicans. But President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the $1.4 trillion effort to extend health insurance to all Americans, is challenging the traditional calculus about government benefits and political impact. Even as Mr. Obama announced that eight million Americans had enrolled in the program and urged Democrats to embrace the law, those in his party are running from it rather than on it, while Republicans are prospering by demanding its repeal.
The story is partially premised on the idea that Obamacare supporters and opponents are roughly even in number, but the latter group is more energized, mobilized and likely to vote. The last part certainly appears to be the case at the moment, but approval of the law isn’t split down the middle. Perhaps the Times could consult polling (including its own) before baking faulty assumptions into its reporting.