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Obamacare Will Hurt Dems in 2014 as Progressives Shift to New Battles

The unpopularity of Obamacare will make 2014 a tough year for Democrats, especially those in red states. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent doesn't deny some Dems are already taking cover where they can, but he says they also have a strategy for making this into a broader argument.

Dems aren’t simply looking to shift away from Obamacare, but to shift the terms of the debate over it, by putting it in the context of a larger debate over the safety net, an argument Dems are already engaging pretty aggressively...

red state Dems who did vote for the law — Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, and Mark Pryor — are in a tougher spot, and are each striking their own balance by criticizing its problems while calling for keeping and fixing it. But Dems like Hagan are aggressively joining the fight over unemployment insurance, and the party committees will be hitting Republicans hard over it.

I think there's an underlying truth here which is that parties can win battles over particular programs but that does not often translate into bigger wins. While word has certainly gotten out that Obamacare is a troubled program, the damage is probably limited to that one issue. Ideological conservatives (and some progressives) may see the obvious connection between this particular instance of big government failure and other similar programs but Americans are notorious for wanting to have it both ways.

For instance, a Gallup poll released in December found that an astounding 72 percent of Americans say big government is the biggest threat to the nation. If Americans were ideologically consistent we should see a groundswell of support for cutting back on entitlement programs which make up most of government's spending and hence its need for ever more growth and taxation. But in fact we don't see that in polls.

Satisfaction with Medicare and Social Security was 12 points lower in 2008 than it was in 2013. In 2010, 75 percent said the behemoth programs will "create problems" but in 2011 61 percent still said the solution was minor changes or to "not try to control costs." That's how it often seems to go in America. You get 3/4 of people saying entitlements are a problem and yet 2/3 say we should do little or nothing about it.

That kind of compartmentalization means that even though Americans genuinely do not like Obamacare right now and are worried about government overreach in general, they will not automatically side with Republicans against the broader progressive agenda. Each policy is its own battleground and Democrats surely know that heading toward November.


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