Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bet It

Obama’s Bad Bet

It seems ObamaCare was not the panacea it was cracked up to be. Sam Stein reports:

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Stan Greenberg — alongside his fellow strategist and party adviser James Carville — said that the signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it, but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office. …

“The good news for Democrats is that, after health care passed, the Democratic intensity number went up. It still doesn’t match the Republican intensity number,” said Carville. “Now if the intensity numbers were the same in November as they are now, it does not bode well for Democrats. But if they continue to improve for Democrats, it would be better news. They are not going to pick up seats. That’s a given. But how many they lose is quite open.”

At least for now, Republicans are leading in generic polling – a rarity by historic standards. It seems that rather than endear voters to the House majority, the passage of the “historic” bill by a narrow partisan vote has only solidified opposition and alienated independents. The unpleasant task of soothing Obama’s congressional allies now falls to House leaders, who just recently were telling their colleagues what a boon ObamaCare would be to their electoral prospects:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is seeking both to calm and unify his party as it enters what he calls “dangerous waters ahead.” With healthcare reform now  law, Democratic leaders are shifting into a new phase, reassuring and advising nervous members who have huge targets on their backs. …

With his two leadership roles, Van Hollen found himself in an unusual position on the healthcare bill. Noting Democrats had to show they can govern, Van Hollen worked hard to pass the bill, but also understood more than most Democrats why some of his colleagues opposed it.

“I’ve made it clear many times that I’m not the whip,” he said with a laugh.

But Obama’s bet — sacrifice handfuls of congressional Democrats to achieve his aim — may not be a wise one. His calculation rests on his ability to hold down the losses, maintain some semblance of support for his agenda, and defuse the opposition to his signature accomplishment and his party, which threatens to repeal and replace his legislation. Without a remarkable shift in opinion and a significant improvement in the economic picture (especially in the jobs outlook), that gamble may very well not pay off.

It seems ObamaCare was not the panacea it was cracked up to be. Sam Stein reports:

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning, Stan Greenberg — alongside his fellow strategist and party adviser James Carville — said that the signs of electoral bloodbath exist today, though not quite as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it, but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office. …

“The good news for Democrats is that, after health care passed, the Democratic intensity number went up. It still doesn’t match the Republican intensity number,” said Carville. “Now if the intensity numbers were the same in November as they are now, it does not bode well for Democrats. But if they continue to improve for Democrats, it would be better news. They are not going to pick up seats. That’s a given. But how many they lose is quite open.”

At least for now, Republicans are leading in generic polling – a rarity by historic standards. It seems that rather than endear voters to the House majority, the passage of the “historic” bill by a narrow partisan vote has only solidified opposition and alienated independents. The unpleasant task of soothing Obama’s congressional allies now falls to House leaders, who just recently were telling their colleagues what a boon ObamaCare would be to their electoral prospects:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is seeking both to calm and unify his party as it enters what he calls “dangerous waters ahead.” With healthcare reform now  law, Democratic leaders are shifting into a new phase, reassuring and advising nervous members who have huge targets on their backs. …

With his two leadership roles, Van Hollen found himself in an unusual position on the healthcare bill. Noting Democrats had to show they can govern, Van Hollen worked hard to pass the bill, but also understood more than most Democrats why some of his colleagues opposed it.

“I’ve made it clear many times that I’m not the whip,” he said with a laugh.

But Obama’s bet — sacrifice handfuls of congressional Democrats to achieve his aim — may not be a wise one. His calculation rests on his ability to hold down the losses, maintain some semblance of support for his agenda, and defuse the opposition to his signature accomplishment and his party, which threatens to repeal and replace his legislation. Without a remarkable shift in opinion and a significant improvement in the economic picture (especially in the jobs outlook), that gamble may very well not pay off.

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