Commentary Magazine


Tuning Obama Out

Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen explain why ObamaCare seems to be stalling. Apparently, the president can’t “move the numbers” — that is, the anti-ObamaCare polling results:

One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

Moreover, the public doesn’t believe Obama’s spin that the plan is deficit neutral. (“People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it’s likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.”) It seems that none of what Obama is saying is penetrating to the voters. But then again, they really don’t want him to be focusing on this at all.

The bottom line is this:

The reason President Obama can’t move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.

Thus, in a sense, the president’s spinners are right when they say the president has a “communications” problem. In spite of — or is it because of ? — his incessant hammering at the same points, the public doesn’t buy what he’s selling. It sounds better to call it a communications problem, as if there were a technical problem with the microphones and satellite dishes at the White House. But it’s more properly thought of as a credibility problem. Obama says X; the public thinks X isn’t true. The numbers don’t move.

Here’s the acid test for whether it’s the communications or the message that’s faulty: come up with another approach. If Obama scrapped his plan, came up with a bare bones set of reforms, and tried selling that, we’d see whether the real issue here is the communications or the massive tax-and-spend plan being foisted on the public.