In 2010, the Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress in open defiance of public opinion, and an incensed citizenry responded by giving Republicans their biggest gains in the House of Representatives since before World War II. Now, coinciding with tomorrow’s 3-year anniversary of President Obama’s signing Obamacare into law, new polling suggests that his namesake is now even less popular than it was at the time of its passage.
According to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for March, only 18 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independents, and 58 percent of members of Obama’s own party, have a favorable opinion of Obamacare. Overall, Kaiser’s polling indicates that only 37 percent of Americans like Obamacare — down 9 points from Kaiser’s tally in the month immediately following Obamacare’s passage.
By about 2-to-1 margins, Kaiser’s respondents now say that, under Obamacare, they expect the cost of American health care to rise (55 percent), rather than fall (21 percent), and the quality of American health care to fall (45 percent) rather than rise (24 percent). By more than 3-to-1 margins (57 to 16 percent on costs, 55 to 18 percent on quality), independents share these same low expectations for life under Obamacare.
Moreover, Kaiser adds, “The intensity of opinion on the law still lies with the GOP.” It writes, “About half of Republicans (53 percent) say they have a very unfavorable view, compared to three in ten Democrats (31 percent) who say they have a very favorable view” (italics in original).
If even Kaiser is showing these results, one can say with confidence that Obama’s centerpiece legislation is, indeed, unpopular. Kaiser has always been an outlier poll, finding support for Obamacare when it was almost impossible to glean elsewhere. In April 2010, in its first post-passage poll, Kaiser showed more support for Obamacare than opposition to it (by a 6-point margin — 46 to 40 percent). That same month, RealClearPolitics showed 11 polls on Obamacare. All 11 showed it to be unpopular, with the average margin of opposition being 13 points — a 19-point swing from Kaiser’s polling. Yet, three years later, even Kaiser’s polling now shows Obamacare to be held in low esteem.
While Republicans are engaging in a torturous debate over what went wrong in 2012, they continue to neglect the simplest and most straightforward cause: They had the ace-in-the-hole in Obamacare, yet they refused to play it. To put a somewhat finer point on it, the Republicans’ presidential nomination process led to the party’s selection of a nominee who, for some reason that’s not apparent from general observation, from polling, or from the results of the 2010 election, somehow thought that “Obamacare was very attractive.” So he failed to emphasize it — and therefore failed to tag Obama as a liberal — and lost. The Senate followed suit.
With Obamacare set to roll out in earnest early next year, one hopes that Republicans will learn their lesson. If they forcefully oppose Obamarcare — rather than helping, like some GOP governors, to advance it — and if they articulate a clear and compelling replacement, they will win this war for the future of America. If they don’t, then they (though not the country) will deserve their fate.
With all of this in mind, it’s worth revisiting Paul Ryan’s short but outstanding remarks on the House floor on the eve of Obamacare’s passage, back when he was clearly leading the party’s charge against this potentially nation-redefining legislation.