Background: Politico has acquired a memo (which they did not share, shockingly*) from presumably the DCCC that describes the strategy, for lack of a better word, of the Democratic party with regard to Obamacare. Essentially, they’re going to:
…[t]ell voters Republicans would make the problem worse — raising prescription drug prices, empowering insurance companies and even endangering domestic violence victims.
The battle plan, details of which were in a memo obtained by POLITICO, recognizes the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act. But it also banks on voter fatigue with the GOP’s relentless demands for repeal and counts on poll-backed data that show many Americans would rather fix Obamacare’s problems than scrap it altogether.
It’s rare that Politico can accurately summarize my reaction to something, but in this particular case they have:
Republicans scoff at the notion that voters will forgive Democrats for the health care law and its botched roll-out, arguing that the reality now is too clear for Democrats to muddy it with promises about the future.
The problem that Democrats face here is that the aforementioned memo tacitly assumes that the worst is behind them when it comes to Obamacare. That… is not true. In the next few months the White House is going to have to figure out a way to deal with the massive disruption of group insurance plans that is scheduled for Election Season 2014. If this is it: well.
As to the specifics: well, there’s a reason why it’s not being emphasized that this was a DCCC memo. While I have NOT SEEN THE MEMO, POLITICO – sorry about that – the story indicates that it was sent to Democratic House candidates; or, as we in the business call them, ‘dead meat.’ At this stage in the game the only pickup that the Democrats can realistically expect to get is CA-31, which is a D+5 open seat that the now-retiring Republican incumbent picked up thanks to a quirk in California’s jungle primary system. They may snag up to two more vacant Republican-held seats, and maybe topple an incumbent or two (while we do precisely the same thing to them, just as hard). The candidates in those races, in other words, have a shot. For the rest? …Here’s a memo. Vaya con Dios, my friends: would that the DCCC could honor your sacrifice as it deserves**.
You are probably wondering at this point what relevance Obamacare advice for embattled House candidates (who might include incumbents) would have for embattled Senate candidates (who definitely include incumbents). The answer? Not much. If Kay Hagan or Jeanne Shaheen – heck, if Jeff Merkley – want to campaign on the argument that their votes on Obamacare aren’t that big a deal because Republicans are evil for hating the law and everything will be sunshine and unicorns in 2015, the GOP will let them. Because the clock really is ticking on what to do about group insurance policy cancellations/mutations/rate hikes.
And, oh yeah, the uncertainty. American voters hate uncertainty, particularly at this level; it leaves them with the (usually well-founded) feeling that the people currently running the system don’t have a clue about how to fix what’s wrong…
— slone (@slone) February 17, 2014
*Note: it is not actually shocking that Politico will not share a memo that might be used against the Democratic party at a later date.
**This is not actually heartless as much as it is Darwinian. There are a lot of people in Congress who lost their first races; the committees will look very closely at how people lost. Run a smart, tight campaign and over-perform expectations in a bad year? Yeah, they’ll call those people back for a good one.