Yesterday, an ABC/WaPo poll registered a “new high” for Obamacare support:
The Fix summarizes the poll numbers:
Overall, 49 percent support and 48 percent oppose the health-care law in the new poll, hardly changed from January (46-49 support-oppose) but clearly better than November, when 40 percent expressed support and 57 percent were opposed. The growth in support has been concentrated among those who “somewhat” support the law, with strong opponents still outnumbering strong supporters by a 36 to 25 percent margin.
Democratic support has surged to a record-tying 76 percent, jumping 11 percentage points since January to the highest level since March 2010, immediately after the law was passed. Currently at 78 percent , Republican opposition has outpaced Democratic support by double digits in nearly every poll over the past two years, but in the latest survey they are within three percentage points.
Specifically, what if it’s true that the law has become a bit more popular with Democrats now that it’s kinda sorta in range of its original goal of seven million enrollments if you squint real hard and ignore things like nonpayment of premiums and the age mix of America’s many new O-Care risk pools? The better the polling gets, especially among independents, the more reluctant some Republicans in Congress will be to support full repeal later.
Last fall, I argued that Obama’s presidency, already historic in significant ways, would become as influential as Reagan’s if two things happened: if the ACA stuck and American entered an era of near-universal healthcare; and if the negotiations with Iran led to an end of sanctions and a controlled Iranian nuclear capability. Both would be generational game-changers – one in domestic policy, the other in foreign affairs. I’ve also long argued that Obama’s entire presidency makes no sense if you try and judge it by its ability to spike the polls in any given news cycle.
So where are we? Too soon to tell on Iran. But after a clear, self-inflicted disaster – the website’s debut – we’ve seen a classic Obama pattern. The fail is replaced by a dogged, persistent, relentless attempt at repair. I’d argue that the competence behind the repair of the site and the revival of the ACA’s fortunes has been as striking as the original incompetence. And we do not and should not judge a president by his mistakes; the critical judgment is in how he responds to those mistakes. As Dick Cheney might put it, the results speak for themselves:
In 2017 there will be, according to the CBO, 36 million Americans newly covered by ACA through exchange policies or Medicaid. That’s a huge number of voters. You have to live in Foxland to think that any great number of these will see themselves as victims of coercion rather than beneficiaries of a terrific entitlement. The second reason comes from the ramshackle, Heath Robinson (Am.E: Rube Goldberg) nature of the Act. This makes it so hard to understand what is going on. More important, it means that any remotely feasible replacement will also be hugely complicated. Simple repeal and reversion to the status quo ante will be as as unacceptable to the electorate as single-payer.
Worse, the Republicans are now in the position of nit-picking, cold-water dousing and general negativity that tends not to wear well over time. Once again, it seems to me, they have misjudged this president’s long game.
All they have now are scare stories and a narrative that simply cannot include the fact that millions more people have irrevocable health insurance than did before Obamacare. They do not have an alternative to offer the 36 million people whose health insurance would be disrupted or ended if repeal took place. Their current strategy – backed by endless propaganda – might yet work this fall. But the more it works this fall, the less it is likely to work thereafter. If the GOP regains the Senate, it seems to me that the case for a Democrat in the White House in 2018 will be much stronger, if only to protect the country from far right over-reach.
Now look at the economic forecast: the IMF is predicting growth of 2.8 percent this year and 3 percent in 2015, easily the best performance among Western economies. We may see further declines in unemployment. This does not seem to me to be compatible with declining support for Obama and his record. In fact, I’d be surprised – barring, of course, any number of game-changing events – if Obama’s approval ratings were not ticking up by the summer.
We’ve been here so many times before with this president – when he seems temporarily becalmed, inert, unable or unwilling to seize every moment. But over the long run, you see the virtues of persistence, relentlessness and pragmatic advance. The opes he once inspired may be dimmed or dashed right now; but in the cold light of day, they shouldn’t be. Like the slow, excruciating accumulation of delegates in the epic 2008 primary campaign, Obama never puts it away until he puts it away. But it’s coming. And more and more people are beginning to see it.