The Briefing, Issue XXIX

Conservative Intelligence BriefingConservative Intelligence Briefing – by David Freddoso

Obamacare fallout: The Obama Administration is projecting renewed confidence about its signature achievement — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — because the federal website with which some insurance customers must interface is now less buggy than before. But this is not real confidence — it is the best possible face, pasted over deep fears that have long beset every knowledgeable fan of the law.  

Anyone who thought Obamacare implementation was going to be easy was fooling himself. The law represented an extremely complex attempt to impose federal control over an already tightly regulated insurance industry. In order to effect the intended changes, it had to upset and destroy many parts of the system that were actually working pretty well for millions people. This is what’s causing all the trouble right now — if you like your health care plan or your doctor, you’re likely to be at least slightly inconvenienced by the law, if you’re fortunate enough not to see your entire situation upended.

This is the chief reason Obamacare is causing so much political damage, dramatically reversing the political dynamic that Republicans had earlier created by shutting down the government. It’s one thing to hear about a government failure that caused a few strangers to die in the Libyan desert. It’s quite another to lose one’s insurance or doctor because of Obamacare, or to have one’s premiums sharply increased, or to learn of a neighbor, friend, or family member is going through that experience.

And the political problem isn’t one of poor salesmanship or perception, or of failing to get positive stories out there. The law is simply affecting too many real people for any amount of spin to change that perception. And it isn’t just affecting Republicans, either. That’s turning Obamacare into a wedge issue that splits off traditionally Democratic constituencies, and threatens to break up the coalition that made Obama president.

As we have previously noted here, recent polls have shown the young — one of the best constituencies for Democrats in the last two presidential elections — turning against Obama and his party. Quinnipiac and Fox News polls have detected this shift, showing Republicans even or better among younger voters ahead of the 2014 midterms. A Harvard study has since found more evidence of this — including evidence that younger Millennials — those 25 and under — are significantly more hostile toward Obama and less likely to identify as Democratic than their slightly older peers.

Another recent survey, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, suggested that women have become far more hostile to Obamacare. Approval of the law has hit a new low of 32 percent with women generally — and working-class white women hate it even more than their male counterparts, giving it only 16 percent approval. Previously, women had been more or less evenly split on the law. Democrats’ “war on women” strategy was effective in 2012 because they managed to trap Republicans in an argument about birth control, which they will try to do again as the Hobby Lobby case goes to the Supreme Court. But the reality of Obamacare may be providing a political antidote to their own poison here.

This is a true wedge issue — and its effects are evident if one looks at Obamacare’s support among all Democrats over time:


The Kaiser poll, as pictured in the graph, suggests a dramatic circling of the wagons by the Democratic rank and file in September and October, coinciding with the government shutdown crisis and the botched rollout. But immediately afterward, Democrats’ approval of the law suddenly plunged, from 70 to just 55 percent.

The final chapter of this story has not yet been written. It’s still too early to know exactly how lasting this change is — or even whether the Obamacare exchanges can survive and whether perceptions of the law will change for the better. Enrollments will have to pick up dramatically, or else the premiums for 2015 will become even higher than the already-high premiums customers face in the ACA exchanges now.

The early returns suggest that Obamacare could “succeed” — or at least not fail catastrophically — in a handful of states like New York, where insurance was already incredibly expensive before the law passed because of earlier state laws. It could simultaneously fail miserably in states where insurance was previously quite cheap. This will magnify anger in those latter states — and some of them (Florida, Iowa and Virginia, for example) are pretty important from an electoral standpoint.

Senate 2014

Mississippi: As we noted on the blog recently, Thad Cochran is running for re-election. His late decision to do so reflects a belief that that a GOP Senate takeover to be likely. He turned 76 years old on Saturday — to spend his early 80s in the U.S. Senate while still in the minority seems much less attractive than to spend it as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

His decision is also good news for State Sen. Chris McDaniel, the Club for Growth-backed conservative who has already announced against him. With Cochran remaining in the race, other strong Republican candidates will bow out, clearing the field. As we noted in the last issue, McDaniel already polls very strongly against Cochran among GOP voters in a head-to-head. PPP has shown that Cochran’s numbers with conservatives are especially bad — his biggest fans in Mississippi are liberals and moderates.

As an Establishment incumbent versus Tea Party challenger primary, this is probably the best and most exciting we’re going to see this cycle. It will be competive, with Cochran in roughly the same position as Sen. Dick Lugar, Ind., was in 2012. Like Lugar, he is not terribly popular with Republican voters and he faces a Tea Party upstart with some support from officeholders. Also like Lugar, Cochran is a prohibitive favorite in a general election.

This race is a better example of this than the others of the war between the Tea Party and the establishment. In Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell is both much more conservative and a prohibitive favorite over his novice primary challenger. Lindsey Graham, whose conservative credentials are often assailed, nonetheless remains a prohibitive favorite in his South Carolina primary — at least for now.

Nor do the open seat races offer no ideological battle so clear-cut either. In Nebraska’s open seat race, both Ben Sasse and Shane Osborn can reasonably claim the conservative label, and both can also rightly be accused of being “establishment” candidates, though for different reasons. There are Tea Party challengers in senate races in South Dakota and West Virginia, but neither of these has caught fire yet. And in Georgia, the field is too crowded.

Cochran’s decision also makes it harder for Democrats to gauge whether or not they’ll have any shot at this seat next November. Stronger contenders may not be willing to take the risk of committing themselves to what might be a race against Cochran. This doesn’t mean a Democrat strong enough to win won’t get in — that just happened in Indiana in 2012 — but it does mean there’s less incentive. In the Indiana case, redistricting had created an incentive for then-Rep. Joe Donnelly, D, who had barely survived the 2010 election with the old lines of his district in hte northern part of the state.

Mississippi’s filing deadline is in April, leaving some wiggle room for any strong Democrat (and in Mississippi, that’s a relative term), but anyone interested in running will have to lay the groundwork much earlier than that.

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One thought on “The Briefing, Issue XXIX

  1. I do not know if they are making this up as they go along but I just heard on the Power Hour, Joyce Reilly reading an email from a listener that visited the government site for the enrolling to Obamacare and it was so expensive he had to withdraw. Later he got an email with the following threats.
    1. Fine over four thousand dollars.
    2. Added to income tax withdrawals.
    3. Payments to be deducted by the IRS automatically every paycheck period.
    4 Suspension of drivers license.
    5. Lien on house.
    in that order.

    The only out I see in this is quitting your job if you can not afford this plan.

    Isn’t that sad?

    You can check this out yourself GCN The Power Hour today in podcast selection. The live show is 6 AM Central time out of Missouri. You have to figure from there depending on where you live.

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