When Chris Wallace asked Mitt Romney on Fox News Sunday why he lost the election, one of the reasons Romney gave was, “Obamacare was very attractive, particularly [for] those without health insurance, and they came out in large numbers to vote, so that was part of a successful campaign.” Like much of the Republican response to the 2012 election, this is exactly the opposite conclusion from that which should be drawn.
Obamacare was the one issue that most pegged Obama as a big government liberal in the eyes of the American citizenry. By refusing to emphasize it, Romney allowed Obama to move to the center in voters’ minds. Obamacare was the centerpiece of Obama’s first term. By not emphasizing it, Romney suggested to voters that it really wasn’t all that much of a concern — and hence neither was having Obama continue in office. Obamacare was the least popular aspect of Obama’s first term. By failing to hammer away at it, Romney handed Obama a pass. Obamacare is a horribly misguided and statist attempt to deal with genuine health care concerns that sorely need to be addressed. By failing to put forward (and to emphasize) a serious replacement, Romney prove to be the latest, and perhaps the most unfortunate, example in a long history of Republicans’ failure to make themselves heard on an issue that’s not only extremely important in its own right, but which (at least in the present day) probably has more bearing than any other issue on the size and scope of government.
Moreover, how could Romney assert that Obamacare was — or is — attractive or popular? Republicans won 63 House seats while running against it in 2010. In between 2010 and 2012, Rasmussen Reports conducted more than 80 polls on Obamacare’s repeal, and in every single one, the number of likely voters who favored repeal exceeded the number who opposed to it — and always by a margin of at least 5 percentage points. Exit polling during the election itself showed that, even though more voters went for Obama, more voters opposed Obamacare — by a margin of 5 points — even despite Romney’s failure to make the case against it. A CNN poll taken shortly after the election showed registered voters opposing Obamacare by a margin of 10 points (and independents opposing it by a margin of 22 points). In a poll taken just a few days ago, Rasmussen indicated that, by a margin of 19 points (and 30 points among independents), likely voters think Obamacare will do more damage to the economy than spending cuts will.
In short, there is nothing attractive about Obamacare. One hopes that in 2016 the Republican party will nominate someone who understands this, and who will make Obamacare’s replacement a — perhaps the — centerpiece of his or her campaign. If Republicans are to be the party of limited government and liberty, they must do nothing less.