I doubt President Obama was considering this quote from the father of the Nobel Prize when he approved “Hope & Change” as his campaign slogan. No one can contest that much has changed in Washington since Obama took office but the polls suggest it wasn’t the “change” the American people were expecting. This reality prompted democratic strategist to examine which issues to front run in the midterm elections and which issues to hide. Ironically, what should be their greatest accomplishment, healthcare reform, finds itself buried six feet under.
A Reuters’ consumer confidence poll found 5 percent more Americans were worried about their ability to pay for health services in July than they were last December. They have good reason to be concerned. Estimates for employer based health plans are expected to rise almost 10% in 2010, with employees paying for a larger portion of their insurance. For those buying insurance on the open market, they can expect a 20% increase.
“The healthcare debate raised people’s expectation, and there is now disappointment as a result that the problem isn’t solved” David Kendall, health expert for ThirdWay, a centrist think tank, told Reuters. One of the biggest criticisms of the Healthcare Reform Bill was it didn’t address the raising costs of health care and insurance, focusing instead on adding the estimated 30 million uninsured to the ranks.
The public’s growing concern about healthcare reform wasn’t lost on Democratic strategists who recently conducted focus groups in Las Vegas. They also conducted two separate polls with about 3000 potential voters. They wanted to measure the publics feeling about Obamacare and help the Democrats make an effective case for the bill they passed last March. It’s fair to say they didn’t much like what they learned.
What they discovered was voters weren’t buying the democratic case that health care reform will insure more than 30 million uninsured people and save money at the same time. And when they think about their own health care, people worry that reform will mean less, not more, availability of health care, and at a higher cost.
Faced with these realities, strategist had to come up with recommendations for Democratic candidates. They concluded that candidates should avoid talking about policy and stick to “personal stories” of those who will benefit from Obamacare. They should also “keep claims small and credible” and promise to “improve” the law. But above all, “don’t say the law will reduce costs and the deficit.”
But wait….wasn’t that the main reason for passing the bill in the first place? “This legislation will lower costs for families and business and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in the next two decades” President Obama said when he signed the bill into law on March 23. It now appears the Democrats are throwing that argument out the hospital window.
“This is the first time we’ve seen from Democrats that they clearly understand they have a serious problem in terms of selling this legislation” says republican pollster David Winston. It’s no mystery why the Democrats want to bury health care. An average of recent polls shows 52% of Americans oppose the law while only 39% support it. And according to Rasmussen, overall support for repeal of the law ranges from 52% to 61%.
Looking at the political landscape, it hard to find something the Democrats can talk about. With almost 10% unemployment, they shouldn’t talk about the economy or the failed $800 billion stimulus package. It’s hard to spin the upcoming tax increases in a positive light and there’s not much good to say about either immigration or Afghanistan. I would avoid “Hope & Change” as well. So what’s left?
Well…there’s always Bush bashing. I’d hate to be a Democratic strategist these days!
This is John Galt Speaking!