The Magazine

The Obamacare Bowl

Oct 1, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 03 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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There is one more reason why emphasizing Obama­care is so crucial. The academic study cited above concluded that Democrats’ support for Obama­care had led voters “to perceive them as more liberal,” “more ideologically distant,” and more “out of step.” This was particularly true, they said, for independent voters. In other words, voters—especially independent voters—don’t just oppose Obama­care as a matter of policy; they view it as the very symbol of big-government liberalism, and therefore (rightly) identify those who champion it as big-government liberals.

When people wonder why, despite round after round of bad job reports, Mitt Romney can’t seem to break through in the polls, perhaps this finding provides a large part of the answer. By refusing to make Obama’s centerpiece legislation a centerpiece of this campaign, Romney is not just giving up on the most potent Republican argument; he’s also allowing Obama, arguably the most liberal president in history, to slide toward the political center in voters’ minds. Every day of the campaign that passes without an Obamacare argument is a day in which Obama appears more acceptable to independents, the very group of voters the GOP nominee is unabashedly targeting.

To phrase this a bit differently, if you remove Obama­care from the equation, the Obama presidency isn’t clearly objectionable to most independents. Without Obama­care, you’re left with Obama’s having been bad on the economy .  .  . but so was President Bush. You’re left with Obama’s having been bad on the debt .  .  . but so was Bush. It’s hard for voters to know how to apportion the blame. Moreover, they like Obama personally—and they like the idea of him. Plus, to return to the football analogy, members of the press corps, instead of playing the role of impartial referees, have signed on as cheerleaders for Team Obama.

But here’s the key: Obama owns Obama­care. He can’t tie it to Bush. He can’t convincingly tie it to Romney—although he’ll surely continue to try. And when trying to tie Obama­care to Romney, Obama suffers from a few disadvantages: Romney didn’t spearhead Obama­care’s passage; Romney didn’t sign Obama­care into law; and Obama­care isn’t named after Romney.

We may be getting late into the third quarter, but there’s still plenty of game left to play. By finally emphasizing his opposition to Obama­care, Romney would slowly but surely move Obama to the left—where he belongs—in voters’ minds. What’s more, unlike on the economy, the debt, or foreign policy, the choice on Obama­care is binary and more obviously decisive for voters. If they reelect Obama, they’ll get a 2,700-page government overhaul that will raise health costs and deficits, lower the quality of care, and compromise Americans’ liberty. If they elect Romney, they’ll get repeal and real reform.

That’s not the choice Obama wants Americans to be thinking about when they walk into the voting booth on November 6.


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