Better news for ObamaCare won't save Obama's presidency

The CNN results amplify Obama’s political problem: The Affordable Care Act imbroglio is having an outsized effect on his entire presidency, with voters reassessing his basic qualifications. “This is serious,” says Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist and former chief of staff to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “This is much more serious than I hear some Democrats saying publicly. This is not a temporary drop.”…

But there are also plenty of reasons to believe Obama won’t recover to any great degree—reasons beyond history, which has shown that once presidents tumble to this level, they rarely, if ever, return to their previous heights.

One is the fickle nature of news coverage and the preference for anecdote over pattern. So if this week’s deadline comes along and the federal healthcare exchange works smoothly, it’s a one or two-day story, maybe a week. It’s not a seven-week story, as the Keystone Kops-style implementation has been. And if the Nov. 30 deadline arrives and industrious reporters can document consumers still having troubles with the site, then all the administration’s talking points about improvement will be rendered effectively inert.

But there is a more fundamental reason why the president is going to have a tough time bouncing back from this: to most Americans, Obamacare remains an abstraction. The direct benefits of the law are imparted to a relatively tiny part of the population. Only 12 million Americans are expected to use federal and state insurance exchanges to purchase coverage – that’s about 4 percent of the total population of the country. And it’s possible many of them have already received cancellation notices along with notices of rate hikes, which means their attitudes toward the ACA are, for want of a better word, complex.