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Why is the White House Suddenly Calling it “ObamaCare”?

The amount of energy Democrats and the administration devoted to fighting the ObamaCare label never really made much sense. So President Obama thinks it’s a really phenomenal law, his signature presidential accomplishment, but also finds it insulting when people attach his name to it? That’s kind of weird.

Now all of a sudden, White House officials have started to embrace the term. David Plouffe, David Axelrod, and even the president himself have all mentioned it during the past few days. In the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza considers why:

Embracing the term “Obamacare” is a recognition that the president owns the law politically-speaking no matter what the Court decides. That reality means he must re-define “Obamacare” in the eyes (or, more accurately, ears) of the public. “Obamacare” currently stands for everything people don’t like about the law. The White House has to make it stand for all the good things in the law.

We’ve written previously that the lack of movement in the Affordable Care Act’s poll numbers leads us to believe that very few people are either undecided or persuadable on the issue. The White House begs to differ, and the embrace of “Obamacare” is a leading edge of a strategy to change minds on what the law means.

Oddly, this shift in rhetoric comes on the heels of reports last week that Obama was trying to back away from his health care law. Many noted that the president didn’t personally mark the two-year anniversary of the law. The Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday:

With the law still unpopular with many Americans, the White House has concluded that it is virtually impossible to change negative public opinions, particularly if Mr. Obama is front and center, a senior administration official said.

Instead, the White House wants to spotlight health-care officials and regular Americans who have benefited from the law, in hopes of draining politics from the issue. Involving Mr. Obama makes the matter more political and is therefore counterproductive to the long-term goal of boosting public support for the overhaul, the official said.

Apparently this was a pretty short-lived strategy. Either the White House was never seriously planning to go through with it, or the reports sparked enough backlash from Obama supporters to get his advisers to nix the idea.

When you think about it, the notion that Obama could ever hope to distance himself from his health care law just doesn’t seem logical. Americans who oppose the law aren’t just going to forget the president’s role in it if he stops mentioning it in speeches. But he risks losing support from his progressive base if he appears to be backing away from it. And Obama will need that group more than ever next November if the Supreme Court ends up striking the law down.


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