Humans aren’t great at long-term predictions, and have a bad habit of assuming that the now will last forever: that housing prices will continue to climb, that technology stocks will stay valuable, and—in the case of the Republican Party—that Obamacare will remain an albatross for Democrats. To wit, the Washington Examiner reports that Republicans are “convinced that Obamacare’s problems will persist deep into the new year” and that the failures of October have “have permanently poisoned the president’s relationship with voters and done irreparable damage to his personal image.” Here’s more:
[M]any Republicans include few of the usual qualifiers when discussing their confidence that voters’ reaction to Obamacare will fuel GOP electoral gains. This mid-election cycle enthusiasm is anchored in recent polling and other factors, Republican strategists and pollsters say. Real Clear Politics recently listed Obama’s approval rate at 42.4 percent and approval of his health care law even lower, at 37.8 percent.
“It’s not just about the rollout,” Republican pollster Brock McCleary said. “The electoral potency can’t be underestimated.”
This, it’s worth noting, was the theory in 2012, when Republicans saw public disdain with the Affordable Care Act and assumed it would lead to political riches for their party. Not only did Mitt Romney kick off his general election campaign with an ad that promised—explicitly—to repeal Obamacare, but he made it the focus of his stump speeches, his ads, and his speech at the Republican National Convention.
The result? A solid win for President Obama and continued Democratic control of the Senate.
Now, it is true that Americans are unhappy with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. But we have eleven months before the next election, and in that time, millions will have received benefits from the law. Far from a parade of horror stories, we’re likely to see a whole lot of nothing, as Obamacare recedes to the background as an area of focus for ordinary Americans. The Affordable Care Act may never become popular, but it won’t drive voters to the polls like it did in the last midterm elections.
Republicans can still run on their opposition to the law, yes, but barring catastrophe, it’ll be irrelevant. The public will have come to terms with the existence of the Affordable Care Act, and insofar that it’s an issue, they’ll likely want to know how the GOP can improve its parts and fix its problems. Which means that, instead of rehashing the rhetoric of the last four years, Republicans should start to think a little harder about what–if anything–they want out of a health care system.