Republicans say Democrats who voted for a bill Friday to let insurers offer limited plans canceled under ObamaCare won't save themselves from the political fallout of the bill in 2014.
“The clear lie and rank hypocrisy on health coverage will be a major issue next year,” said Dan Conston, communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a GOP super-Pac.
“They’re caught in a lie that’s going to haunt them in a year.”
Brock McCleary, the head of Harper Polling and a former National Republican Congressional Committee polling director, said the attempts from Democrats to fix the law could backfire.
“It's bad enough that you own ObamaCare. Now to vote for a fix makes you appear duplicitous and to fit the mold of the typical Washington politician,” he said.
Nearly every one of Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents voted for a measure, backed by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), to allow insurers to continue to offer existing plans under ObamaCare. The bill passed on a 261-157 vote, with 39 Democrats defecting from their party to support it.
The support reflects the bleak political reality Democrats face in the wake of the rocky rollout and news reports that millions of Americans have lost their insurance under ObamaCare, shattering a promise President Obama made that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”
A polling edge Democrats gained following the government shutdown had been erased midweek, prompting the party to make moves to refocus the discussion away from the healthcare law.
But Republicans believe the rollout has been botched so badly that there’s little Democrats can do to regain lost ground. And they argue that they have only to keep the conversation on the healthcare law to win in 2014, something that’s all but assured if Republican attacks send Democrats scrambling to defend their initial support of the law.
“If we focus on ObamaCare, the Democrats lose,” McCleary said.
He said Democratic votes against the fix will “make for a pretty potent ad come next fall.”
“However, for those on the other side of the coin [who voted for the fix], I think it could also find its way into paid advertising,” he added, predicting an “onslaught of ads that hang ObamaCare around their neck.”
“Potentially a Democrat gets themselves wrapped around the spokes by trying so hard to make this vote exculpatory. At that point, you’re really playing into Republican ads,” he added.
The NRCC was already out shortly after the vote with attacks hitting both those vulnerable Democrats who voted for the Upton bill and those who voted against it.
“No matter what this Washington politician says, [Rep.] Nick Rahall [(D-W.Va.)] voted to give us ObamaCare and keep ObamaCare on the books,” said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek in a statement hitting Rahall shortly after the vote. “Rahall is part of the problem, and it’s because of him that ObamaCare has been such a total disaster for the American people.”
Similar statements knocked 32 other Democrats who voted for the fix.
Public opposition to the law has risen since the rollout of the exchanges, and the GOP believes it could have an opening on the law similar to the one it saw in 2010, when frustration with the passage of the Affordable Care Act helped drive Republicans to the polls in droves and deliver the party the majority.
McCleary, who was at the NRCC during that Republican wave, said now that ObamaCare is a reality, it “has the potential to be even more potent in 2014 than it was in 10.”
“Democrats in competitive seats could see themselves washed out to sea,” he said.
It’s a striking change of fortune for a party facing record-low approval ratings just a month ago. McCleary said he met with a number of Republican strategists Friday morning and they were elated at the recent developments.
“The hangover from the shutdown has been erased,” he said.
Democrats believe, however, that Republicans will botch upcoming fiscal talks and undo any of the advantages they’ve gained, with the first deadline, to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government, coming on Jan. 15.
Conston admitted that Republicans should be careful not to distract from issues with the healthcare law with the party’s own policy battles, but he believes the GOP has learned its lesson from the shutdown.
“It's in the party's interest to continue the focus on ObamaCare, and not let other issues derail that focus,” he said.
And Conston is predicting that the law could get even worse for Democrats.
“It’s like quicksand. It's sucking people in. And this is just one component. Just wait until the next piece of this law is rolled out,” he said.