Republicans anxious to reap rewards of Obamacare meltdown

With around 11 months to go until voters head to the polls, commentators are beginning to wonder what impact Obamacare will play in the 2014 mid-term election. Polling data on everything from the law’s tepid support to President Obama’s dismal job approval rating to generic congressional ballot show that Democrats should brace themselves.

But a lot can change in the course of 11 months. It’s an eternity in politics. In October, Republicans were reeling in the polls only to find themselves back on top just weeks later after the botched Obamacare rollout and the firestorm over canceled health plans.

Though he’s mindful of that a lot can change, John Fund surmises that the political landscape could possibly become even more toxic for Democrats, pointing recent polling from CNN which found a lack of enthusiasm from their base:

What worries Democrats the most is that their base voters will be unenthusiastic about voting in a year when President Obama isn’t himself on the ballot. The CNN poll has some evidence backing up that fear. It finds that only 22 percent of Democrats are currently extremely or very enthusiastic about voting. At the same time, 36 percent of Republicans can’t wait to find a polling booth and register their discontent.

President Obama is, as of now, a drag on Democratic candidates. A full 55 percent of adults say they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who opposes Obama than for one who backs his program.

Numbers like that can have a real impact in swing states. Take Colorado, which was a key to Obama’s victory in 2012 when he won it with 51.5 percent of the vote. But this month’s Quinnipiac poll found Obama’s approval in the state at just 36 percent. That has helped make Democratic senator Mark Udall’s seat competitive. His “deserves re-election” number has tumbled down to 41 percent, with 47 percent now saying he doesn’t deserve a second term.

Right now, Democratic control of the House looks more out of reach than ever and the Democrats’ Senate majority is more in jeopardy than ever before. So far, Democrats are relying on patchwork fixes to Obamacare and they are refusing to address the internal contradictions of the Rube Goldberg machine they’ve built. We’ll see just how long Democrats who see themselves as vulnerable to defeat continue to accept the “happy talk” of leaders like Pelosi and Reid. My guess is that their survival instinct will eventually trump Democratic unity.

Some Republicans could give Democrats a hand in trying to “fix” the Obamacare meltdown, which was the subject of a recent article from The New York Times. It seems that at least some are contemplating the political risks of repealing the law that a majority of Americans don’t support and they’re trying to figure out “what to do next.”

At the same time, however, there are continuing concerns from the business community about the impact of Obamacare. For example, just before Christmas, a Wisconsin paper highlighted the “chilling effect” the law is having on businesses in that state:

The Affordable Care Act is having a chilling effect on some Wisconsin employers, as soaring health care costs and uncertainty over new fees and requirements have caused some businesses to put a hold on hiring and expansion, business leaders say.

Reed Hall, CEO and secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said profit margins remain small as the nation recovers from the Great Recession, and many Wisconsin businesses view President Obama’s trademark legislation as yet another reason to avoid adding expenses.

“People tell me they just aren’t hiring because of that, until they know exactly what the expenses are going to be, so they know if they have any margin left,” said Hall, whose private-public partnership is tasked with leading the state’s economic development efforts. “They just can’t afford to hire.”

With the employer mandate set to take effect at the beginning of 2015, after a one-year delay, stories like this could become familiar, just as they were in the spring and early summer of 2013. Even though the job market has experienced some recent gains, business may slow down there hiring as they brace of increased healthcare costs.

Just as continued stories of higher health insurance premiums and health plan cancellations will undoubtedly hurt Democrats, continued complaints from the business community about Obamacare would only do that much more damage.

It’s still very true that Republicans need to present a set of healthcare policy alternatives to voters, whether it’s Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) Empowering Patients First Act or some other proposal. But, up to this point, the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats have allowed Republicans to sit back and watch Obamacare burn.

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