Democrats are seeking to regain control of the national political narrative as problems with ObamaCare are threatening to undo all of the advantage they gained following the government shutdown, jeopardizing their chances in 2014.
House Democrats outlined plans to refocus attention on the potential for another showdown over the federal budget in January — when the current government funding measure is set to run out — in a memo issued at a caucus meeting Wednesday by Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).
The DNC is highlighting a number of failed policy attempts — including immigration reform, which looks dead in the water this year, the shutdown and a new ban on certain kinds of abortions, proposed by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report McConnell: I’m very sympathetic to 'Dreamers' GOP senators unnerved by Trump-Russia relationship MORE (R-S.C.) — as evidence the GOP is the "same extreme, ideological and out-of-touch party that turned voters away" in 2012, DNC spokesman Mike Czin said in an email to The Hill.
But Republicans are pledging to stay focused on ObamaCare, which they see as symbolic of a greater problem with Democrats’ governing vision and abilities.
“Democrats are desperately trying to change the topic but their efforts are falling flat. For the next year they will be forced to explain why they continue to support the train wreck that is ObamaCare,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in an email to The Hill.
Democrats are looking to shift attention away from the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, which has produced weeks of negative headlines and sharp attacks on President Obama from Republicans and members of his own party alike.
Polls show the healthcare law’s troubles have erased any political advantage Democrats gained post-shutdown, when Democrats grew optimistic they could keep their 10-seat majority in the Senate and compete for the 17 seats the party needs to win back the House.
When the government shutdown ended in mid-October, polling showed Americans overwhelmingly blamed them for the crisis.
But new polling released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University shows Democrats tied with Republicans in a generic congressional matchup — a loss of a 9-point lead Democrats held over the GOP in Quinnipiac's last poll, on Oct. 1.
That same Quinnipiac poll showed Obama's disapprovals rising to 54 percent. For the first time in his presidency, the poll showed him distrusted by a majority of Americans.
And faith in the president's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, is equally low.
Only 19 percent of respondents say they believe the quality of their healthcare will improve over the next year under the law, while 45 percent believe it will get worse.
Fifty-five percent oppose the law.
Forty-six percent of voters believe Obama knowingly deceived Americans when he proclaimed that "if you like your health plan, you can keep it" under the healthcare reform law, a declaration since proven erroneous as thousands of Americans face dropped coverage under ObamaCare.
The dropped coverage has prompted friendly fire from the likes of former President Clinton, who said that the president should “honor his commitment” that Americans won’t be dropped from their current coverage.
In a clear sign Democrats are concerned about the potential political ramifications of the shutdown, every Senate Democrat running for reelection in a red state has signed onto a bill introduced by Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) — herself a top Republican target for 2014 — that would ensure Americans can keep their current plans under ObamaCare.
Czin admitted that the rollout “should’ve been better.”
But he said that “far from” running away from ObamaCare in 2014, he expects Democrats to embrace it.
“[Voters] don’t want to see the healthcare law repealed, they want to see it work, they want to see the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” he said, citing a mid-October Kaiser Health tracking poll that showed a majority of Americans want to keep or expand the law, rather than repeal it.
“What’s going on now is Democrats are united in wanting the legislation to work, where Republicans are really intent with repealing it.”
He suggested, too, that Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s win in the Virginia gubernatorial race last week indicated voters aren’t focused on ObamaCare; rather, they’ll head to the polls and vote on the economy, which he expects is an argument Republicans will lose.
And Democrats are working to beat back attacks from the right.
The DCCC on Wednesday launched Web ads hitting 32 Republican House members, many of them top Democratic targets, reminding voters they haven’t ruled out the possibility of backing another shutdown to eliminate ObamaCare.
Israel, in his memo, warned Democrats that “the worst may be yet to come” when the current government funding measure runs out, on Jan. 15.
Then, Democrats privately believe, another showdown over the budget could tip the government back into chaos and again singe Republicans, mitigating any harm done by the ObamaCare rollout to Democrats.
The DNC, meanwhile, plans to aggressively push the message that the Republican Party, for all its attempts to broaden its appeal, hasn’t changed.
The committee released an online video on Wednesday and plans to drive home that message with paid Web ads and events with state parties in target states — like in Iowa this Saturday, where Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump: ObamaCare replacement coming in 'a couple of weeks' GOP Congress unnerved by Trump bumps Top Dem: GOP is terrified of Trump MORE (R-Wis.) is campaigning with Gov. Terry Branstad (R ).
—Updated at 3:27 p.m.