Four years after ObamaCare passed, and six months after the disastrous rollout and horrendous market disruptions made clear just how big an albatross it would be around their necks, Democrats are, er … starting to worry about it for the midterms. Politico’s Jake Sherman and Burgess Everett report that the shock of David Jolly’s unexpected win in FL-13 is so great that they can’t even decide how Alex Sink got the messaging wrong:
Democrats can’t even agree whether Obamacare was the reason for their crushing loss in a Florida special election Tuesday.
Now picture how their messaging plan for the health care law is shaping up for 2014. …
A few Democrats are advocating a drastic rhetorical shift to the left, by criticizing their own party for not going far enough when it passed the law in 2010.
Other Democrats plan to sharply criticize the Affordable Care Act when running for re-election.
Many plan to stick to the simple message that Obamacare is flawed and needs to be fixed —a tactic that plainly didn’t work for Sink.
Taken together, the Democratic Party is heading into an already tough election year divided — instead of united — on the very issue Republicans plan to make central to their campaigns.
Say, doesn’t this sound familiar? It seems pretty similar to 2010, when Democrats insisted that the anger in townhalls across America in the previous two summers was nothing more than an Astroturf stunt financed by corporate interests. Their party leaders advised them to run proudly on the fact that they’d imposed a command economy and vastly expanded government control on an electorate that didn’t want it in the first place. That strategy led them to a historic “shellacking,” to use Barack Obama’s term, in the 2010 midterm elections.
This disarray just proves that Democrats never did learn the lesson from 2010. They thought that the public had gotten over ObamaCare after the 2012 election cycle, but it had been a back-burner issue for the most part in that election. Obama made the argument about Romney’s wealth and disconnect from ordinary Americans, and Romney — for all of his strengths — never got out of that hole. The actual rollout of ObamaCare and the incompetence and failure it exposed brought it right back to the forefront, especially because it now impacts every single American, thanks to higher costs and insurance disruptions.
Because of that universal impact, expect to see a lot more of these kinds of ads from Americans For Prosperity. Harry Reid and the White House can fume about the Koch brothers all they want, but these ads work because it matches the experience Americans are broadly getting from the imposition of the Democrats’ biggest project in decades — and a lesson on the dangers of government takeovers.
The problem for Democrats isn’t messaging. It’s ObamaCare itself.
Update: Sean Sullivan explains at the Washington Post that “fix it don’t nix it” won’t win Democrats any elections, in part because it fires up their opposition:
The predominant Democratic Party line on Obamacare in 2014 is some version of this: “Let’s keep the law, but let’s fix it.”
Since the health-care law is unpopular, but repeal is even less popular, this seems like a politically safe middle ground stance, right? Wrong. To understand why, consider what happened in Florida on Tuesday and the raft of recent polling pointing to trouble for Democrats on this front. …
Democrats blamed the Florida loss on an unfavorable electorate dominated by Republican voters. Turnout there in November will look very different, they said. They may well be right. But turnout is not determined in a vacuum. Republican voters were more enthusiastic about voting. That shouldn’t be overlooked as Republicans have sought to use Obamacare as the No. 1 issue for turning out their base.
“I think the Affordable Care Act is an energizing issue for Republicans,” Sink pollster Geoff Garin acknowledged to reporters Wednesday morning, even as he contended that Sink’s loss was not because of Obamacare.
What’s more, the repeal posture that Democrats claimed would be Jolly’s undoing didn’t prevent him from winning, even though Democrats routinely pointed to national polls that showed repeal was unpopular.
How to explain that? Part of the answer is that voters whole are more hostile toward candidates who support the law than the public as a whole.
The other issue with that message is that it’s a transparent lie. Sink kept trying to use it, but when pressed could come up with no substantive “fixes” that addressed the issues American consumers are experiencing. Obama managed to BS his way through 2012, but that strategy looks pretty risky for incumbent Democrats in 2014.