The passage of ObamaCare was supposed to help narrow the “enthusiasm” gap between Democrats and Republicans. Even if the mammoth tax-and-spend measure infuriated conservatives and even some independents, the saving grace for Democratic lawmakers would be their liberal base’s renewed fervor. It hasn’t panned out. Tom Jensen of the Democratic Public Policy Polling explains:
Our polls over the last few weeks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin found a self reported 2008 vote anywhere from 6-10 points more friendly to John McCain than the actual vote in the state. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One is that folks who have soured on Obama may not be admitting that they voted for him in the first time. The more likely explanation though is something we already saw play itself out in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts- a much higher percentage of McCain voters are planning to come back out this year than folks who voted for Obama.
There still aren’t a whole lot of Obama voters planning to go for the Republicans this year. If the 2010 electorate was the same as the 2008 electorate we’d have Arlen Specter leading Pat Toomey, Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk, Tom Barrett leading Scott Walker, and Jennifer Brunner leading Rob Portman. But all four of those Democratic candidates are losing right now because McCain voters are more energized than Obama ones to come out and vote this fall. Perhaps the party will find a way to change that by November, but it certainly didn’t in any of the statewide races we’ve had so far since Obama took office.
There are a few possible explanations. Liberals might not be that jazzed by ObamaCare, which lacks the public option and forces people to fork over money to dreaded Big Insurance. Or, liberals might be miffed that more of their agenda — cap-and-trade, retreat from Afghanistan, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — hasn’t gone through. And on the conservative side of the equation, nearly everything Obama does these days — ObamaCare, lambasting Israel, renouncing a nuclear counterstrike in case of a chemical or biological attack — adds fuel to the fire. In short, ObamaCare didn’t provide enough of a boost to liberals to counteract the fever pitch of antagonism which Obama has generated among conservatives and independents. To a greater degree than conservatives could ever have managed on their own, Obama has shifted the electorate to the Right — and his party will suffer significant losses as a result.