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Jewish World Review
March 30, 2010
/ 15 Nissan 5770
Message to Dems: People still don't like Obamacare
Did the world really change overnight? If you listen to some Democratic spinners, you might think that the same American people who opposed Obamacare for many, many months now support it.
This week the president's supporters embraced a quickie poll by Gallup/USA Today showing that more Americans say it was a "good thing" than a "bad thing" that the health care plan has now been passed. Based on that rushed and flawed survey among other things, Gallup asked the question in a different way than before some commentators pronounced it a new day. One suggested that Republicans need to learn "the Kenny Rogers rule: Know when to fold 'em."
But has public opinion really changed so much? A CNN poll taken over three days, the last of which was the day Obamacare passed the House, found that 59 percent of those surveyed opposed the bill, versus 39 percent who favored it. And a CBS survey done after the vote showed that more people believe it will hurt the health care system than help, and 89 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of independents believe the GOP should continue to challenge parts of it.
It's not a new day. "The margin prior to the vote was basically people disapproving of the bill by 10 to 12 points," says Republican pollster David Winston. "What I've now seen is that the gap has closed a bit, but that you still have more negative than positive."
And that is after the White House has had most of the week to drive a positive message. "Even after this significant push, they still can't flip the numbers," says Winston.
Republicans have been portrayed as erupting in one long, irrational cry of anger about losing the vote. But they're watching the polls closely and believe they will benefit by continuing to oppose the bill as it slowly becomes policy. "The American people are absolutely livid about the overreach of the federal government," says Rep. Tom Price, head of the House Republican Study Committee. In a conversation late Thursday, Price outlined a four-part strategy for Republicans.
First, the GOP will "identify as often as possible the detrimental and remarkably consequential effects of this bill on communities." He pointed to news from the heavy-equipment makers Caterpillar and John Deere that the new law will cost them $100 million and $150 million, respectively, in the coming year. You'll be hearing a lot about that from Republicans in the days to come.
The second part of Price's strategy is for Republicans to support the various constitutional challenges to the law.
Third, Price said, "We have to repeal the egregious aspects of this bill and replace them with patient-centered solutions." Note the phrase "egregious aspects." Republicans will be arguing not to throw the entire bill out, but the elements that most involve federal government coercion: the individual mandate, government definition of "acceptable" insurance plans, etc.
The fourth part of the GOP plan is pretty simple: Win in November.
President Obama has spent the days after the bill's passage trying to convince the American public to like it. "Some folks in Washington are still hollering about" health care reform, he said during a visit to Iowa Thursday. "They're actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. … And my attitude is: Go for it."
Despite that tough talk, it's unlikely Obama will be able to overcome months of opposition very quickly especially if Price and his colleagues do a good job telling the public about the bill's flaws and burdens. And the longer Obama appears to be devoting his greatest energies to health care more trips to swing states to tell more audiences what a great deal it is the longer he isn't doing the same for jobs and the economy.
"There is this clock ticking," says David Winston. "At some point they have to flip over to the issue that really matters, which is jobs, so that every day they have to keep talking about health care is not a good day."
Any politico would tell you that November is a long way off and a lot can change by then. But both sides have hardened, and the campaign has really taken shape in the last week. Not long ago, Obama said that when differences between the parties can't be bridged, then "that's what elections are for."
Well, the differences weren't bridged. And the campaign is on.
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