Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Democrats should make Obamacare a campaign issue

This is a plea to the Democrats not to ignore the Obamacare issue.  If it is not the main strategic message, it still deserves attention as a tactic  because it gives the Democrats a  new opportunity to attack the GOP and Mitt Romney , to win over the few undecided and independents , and to dampen the GOP rank and file’s passion to  vote because of their opposition to Obamacare.  It might in the long run  save Obamacare from being repealed.
The quandary facing the GOP and the Democrats is whether to make an issue of Obamacare  or run from it. It depends on which level, Presidential or Congressional, and in which states.   The focus will  be more critical in  the Senate races since it probably a given the TeaParty GOP will hang onto the House of Representatives. While it is  unlikely,  the Senate has the potential to see the partisan  balance change  enough  so that the GOP could have enough votes to control the filibuster and the reconciliation process and could possibly either repeal or cripple Obamacare. .  Neither Colorado senators are up for election this year, so that the Presidential race will be the focus.  Elsewhere the races for the senate will be more crucial for the preservation of Obamacare.
On the Presidential level,  Pres. Obama and his surrogates have an opportunity to get a fresh start in  selling  Obamacare, to rebut the distortions and flat out lies opponents use against it, and to attack Mitt Romney and the GOP.  There is value in keeping Obamacare on at least the second burner, if not the first, in the both the House and Senate races that would benefit the President.
  The inclination of Democrats is  to run away from Obamacare  because the US is still split 50-50 on the issue and the only ones left to convince are the few independents and less astute voters who are indifferently  fence sitting.  If Obamacare is buried in the campaign rhetoric, he is missing an opportunity to put Romney and the GOP on the defensive and to dampen GOP rank and file enthusiasm and motivation to vote because of their distorted  understanding of Obamacare.   There is nothing like a near death experience to focus attention on the values of life and what is lost in dying .
By giving some attention to Obamacare, the President  also can help educate the voters in contested Congressional races, but at the same time educate the Democratic candidates  so they can argue, debate, and position themselves effectively.  Polls show that the GOP rank and file is motivated to vote because of their dislike of Obamacare.  
 The opportunity is important because the Obama administration has done a miserable job of a positive approach  in selling Americans that Obamacare would be good for them whether they are happily insured by an employer now or one of the thirty million uninsured who do not have access to insurance because of cost or pre-existing conditions. A negative approach:” here is what the GOP will take away “would work better to get the truth out.   Ads featuring real people who are or will benefit from Obamacare  attacking the GOP for wanting to take away their benefits could be very effective.  The prospect of losing those benefits should make the voters be more willing, open and motivated to try to understand the positive aspects of the  law. It could also infuse more enthusiasm in the Democratic base, as well, giving Democrats a cause to fight for.

Romney has every reason in the world to ignore the issue, trying to explain why Romneycare, the model for Obamacare, is good for Massachusetts and a success, would be a failure or wrong for the rest of the nation. It is  an  awkward  position and there is an opportunity the Democrats to make hay with it. Romney also has said he would replace some of the benefits of Obamacare but no method to fund them if he repealed the mandate.  Whatever he says he wants to do, cover pre-existing conditions, restore the popular benefits, or make insurance affordable to the 30 million left out of the system now, would be impossible to fund and would butt heads with the Teaparty folks who do not want to replace Obamacare with anything.
Democrats can also use the Obamacare  issue in combination with or part of other issues to define Romney on character issues. If Obama does that, he can force the GOP on the defensive and show that not only are they inhumane, as is their out of touch standard bearer, they also have no real replacement that is comparable and fundable; a fuzzy policy maker.
By the Democrats ignoring the issue, they have missed an opportunity to attack him on poor leadership and being a pig in a polk he is asking voters to buy.  Combined with Romney’s fuzzy thinking on the immigration issue, there is an opportunity for Obama to attack him for being a weak leader, countering GOP claims Obama is a weak leader and defining  Romney as fuzzy.  (Remember the fuzzy math political attacks of years past?)
What the Democrats ought to be doing now is educating their candidates in the Congressional races on the ins and outs of the health care reform law so they can function as their own fact checking truth squad,  fight the GOP distortions effectively and attack their GOP opponent as wanting to deny voters of the benefits of Obamacare.    They also must be knowledgeable enough to defend against any attempt by a GOP strategy to tie Obamacare to the debt and deficit, and know the positive impact Obamacare will have on the debt and on Medicare, for example.  They must have at their fingertips the rebuttal  to such lies  that Obamacare will raise taxes to the middle class, cost trillions, and cause small business not to create jobs.  If the Congressional candidates can do this effectively, they can also help Obama get re-elected and save Obamacare.

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