Will Obamacare Help Democrats?

Senate ACA

Sam Stein and Sabrina Siddiqui examined the websites “for 186 House Democrats up for reelection (we didn’t count those who’ve announced retirements), as well as 20 Democrats running for Senate (including three current House members and a few clear frontrunners who don’t currently hold federal office)”:

The results tell the story of a party still skeptical of the law’s political benefits, but overwhelmingly committed to upholding President Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation. House Democrats are far more excited about Obamacare, with many members overstating the critical role they played in its passage. Senate Democrats seem more inclined to whitewash the entire bill from the public’s memory — the majority of Senate candidates avoid mentioning Obamacare at all. Only three candidates among the 206 whose websites we checked had an overtly anti-Obamacare message — and even those three don’t advocate repealing the law outright.

Josh Green expects Democrats to benefit from Obamacare in the long run:

I think the health-care law will still prove to be a net plus for Democrats in many races—a few this fall, and many more in future elections. The reason why is easier to understand if you flip the issue around and look at it from the Republican side.

Conservative orthodoxy still holds that Obamacare is a socialist abomination, and this requires Republican candidates to continue to advocate its repeal. It’s true that the law’s repeal is a strong motivator for Republican voters, and that does carry electoral advantages. But in practice, repealing Obamacare would entail dissolving popular state plans such as [Kentucky’s health care exchange] Kynect. Voters are bound to notice and make the connection.

Kentucky’s Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, on Tuesday declared the law an “indisputable success” and said 413,000 Kentuckians had gained private or Medicaid coverage through Kynect. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes, Beshear has a 56-29 approval rating. But Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican running for reelection, remains wedded to the notion of repeal. Now, Democrats in the state are going after him for wanting to abolish not Obamacare, but Kynect.

Jonathan Bernstein’s view:

If you ask people whether government should “do more” or “do less” on health care, the liberal argument is going to come out on top with everyone except a small group of seriously ideological conservatives.

Making Obamacare the central issue in health care tends to obscure that Democratic advantage. That may be why Republicans would want to continue to keep the debate going. It also appears that Obamacare motivates Republican voters, for now at least. I’ve always believed this is arbitrary. Republican voters will always be motivated by whatever issue that Republican politicians, opinion leaders, and party-aligned media choose to emphasize. If the focus switched to Common Core, for example, Republican voters would follow. It’s difficult to see them moving away from Obamacare anytime soon, however, given their investment.

Cillizza, on the other hand, argues that Obamacare is still a problem for Democrats:

Republicans HATE the law. Democrats like it.  That’s why, in Louisiana, almost six in ten registered voters said that they would not vote for a candidate who did not share their views on the law. While some of that number is surely Democrats who wouldn’t vote for a candidate who was against Obamacare, all of the other data out there about the law suggests that the energy on the issue is with the folks adamantly opposed to it.

Given that, the gap between those saying they wouldn’t vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on the Affordable Care Act and those who said they would is another way to gauge intensity around the law. And while the 30-point gap between “wouldn’t vote” and “would” is widest in Louisiana, it’s still quite large in North Carolina (18 points) and Arkansas (17 points). In Kentucky, where the state-run insurance exchange is working as well as any in the country, there appears to be less political heat around the law, with those who wouldn’t vote for a candidate who shared their  view on the ACA running only seven points ahead of those who said they could vote for a candidate who disagreed with their view.