Politically and substantively, this is a low for the administration. “Things suck right now,” says one Senate Democratic aide. “They suck unbelievably much, considering where we were six weeks ago.”
The question is whether it’s rock bottom. Perhaps soon HealthCare.gov will improve, congressional Democrats will relax, and the narrative will shift to “comeback” mode. In that world, it’s even plausible that Republicans could underperform in 2014 and decide to take another look at immigration reform before their standing with Hispanics dooms them in 2016, too.
It’s also possible, however, that the Web site will continue to fail, the Obama administration’s agenda will continue to flounder, and the damage will simply mount, leading to a disastrous 2014 for Democrats and an early end for the White House’s second-term ambitions.
The core fact in all of this is that the Obama administration’s fortunes largely lie beyond politics now. They will be decided by the reality of how well their signature law works. Jeff Zients has a big job ahead of him.