Both par­ties ob­serve a du­bi­ous an­niver­sary

Oba­macare roll­out haunts Democrats more than shut­down hurt GOP

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Democrats and Repub­li­cans each cel­e­brated du­bi­ous an­niver­saries on Wed­nes­day: For the GOP, it was a year from the day they or­ches­trated a gov­ern­ment shut­down over Oba­macare.

For Democrats, it was the be­gin­ning of the health law’s rocky roll­out, which sent Pres­i­dent Obama’s poll num­bers tum­bling.

One year later, it is Oba­macare’s roll­out that ap­pears to have the more po­lit­i­cally poi­sonous legacy, dent­ing Mr. Obama and mak­ing him toxic head­ing into mid-term con­gres­sional elec­tions.

“There’s a rea­son why the law re­mains un­pop­u­lar — and that’s be­cause it’s not work­ing like the pres­i­dent promised it would,” said Sen. John Bar­rasso, Wy­oming Repub­li­can, in a state­ment tout­ing the year an­niver­sary of the law tak­ing full ef­fect with the launch of the ex­changes.

But last year, on Oct. 1, no­body could have guessed that would be the case.

House Repub­li­cans had just set the fed­eral gov­ern­ment on the path to a shut­down, hav­ing re­fused, at Sen. Ted Cruz’s in­sis­tence, to pass a spend­ing bill that funded Oba­macare along with the rest of the gov­ern­ment.

The shut­down lasted 16 days, leav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of fed­eral em­ploy­ees at home and shut­ting down na­tional parks and other gov­ern­ment ser­vices across the coun­try. Democrats said it sucked $24 bil­lion of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity out of the econ­omy.

“It’s just stun­ning the frivolity with which the Repub­li­cans treat the econ­omy,” House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi told re­porters on Wed­nes­day.

Even some Repub­li­cans were wary of ty­ing the an­nual spend­ing bills to Oba­macare, ar­gu­ing that it was a dis­trac­tion from their anti-Oba­macare mes­sage at a time when the botched roll­out was giv­ing them plenty of am­mu­ni­tion.

And in­deed, soon after the shut­down ended, at­ten­tion turned to the health care roll­out, with a fed­eral web­site that kicked users off, and some state web­sites that never got work­ing prop­erly.

On Oct. 24, a week after the shut­down, the pres­i­dent’s job ap­proval rat­ing stood at 45.1 per­cent, ver­sus 50.5 per­cent dis­ap­proval, for a gap of 5.4 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the RealClearPol­i­tics.com av­er­age of polls. By De­cem­ber, his ap­proval had dropped 5 per­cent­age points, and his gap was 15.5 points. It has re­mained in dou­ble-digit neg­a­tive ter­ri­tory since.

Demo­cratic strate­gist Karl Frisch said at this point, those vot­ing on ei­ther Oba­macare’s roll­out or the gov­ern­ment shut­down are al­ready firmly in the camp of Repub­li­cans or Democrats.

“For most cam­paigns, this will be a base mo­ti­va­tion elec­tion which is why you hear Democrats talk­ing about the shut­down and GOP ex­trem­ism and Repub­li­cans talk­ing about Oba­macare so much,” he said. “Both par­ties have made the cal­cu­lus that, by-and-large, at­tempt­ing to per­suade the few re­main­ing un­de­cided vot­ers out there just isn’t a cost ef­fec­tive propo­si­tion. Turn­ing out the base is cheaper, eas­ier, and far more re­li­able.”

But GOP poll­ster Michael McKenna said there’s lit­tle doubt Repub­li­cans have ben­e­fited more from the Oba­macare roll­out than Democrats have from the shut­down, which he said “af­fected ap­prox­i­mately no­body” — even gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees fur­loughed were fully paid for their time.

He said the proof that the health care roll­out is more im­por­tant to pol­i­tics to­day — and that it’s a prob­lem for Democrats —is the fact that there are so many Repub­li­cans run­ning ads against their op­po­nents at­tack­ing them for vot­ing for the law. Mean­while, there are no Democrats run­ning ads against the GOP for op­pos­ing it.

“No one will be pe­nal­ized for vot­ing against it,” Mr. McKenna said.

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