Obamacare: From midterm game-changer to background noise

But even Republicans who still believe it’s a significant issue, and a damaging one for Democrats despite its benefits, can’t point to races that are likely to be decided on the health care law alone. That’s a big change from last fall, when it looked like the error-filled rollout and cancelled health insurance plans would make Obamacare a huge liability, and probably a decisive one, for all of the red-state Democrats up for re-election this year.

Now, the health care law is taking a back seat to continuing anxieties about the economy and newer crises, like the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The growing attention to the ISIL threat, in particular, “has certainly taken some of the ‘ouch’ out of Obamacare” for the administration, said GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

The most Republicans can say is that Obamacare will matter, it will work as a symbol of government overreach in some races, and it has already changed the political environment by helping the GOP recruit stronger candidates. Republican pollster Ed Goeas says the health care law “has come to represent overreach of the federal government,” and that is its main value in GOP ads.