Obamacare’s 2014 tipping point

Chris Wilson CEO, WPA Opinion Research
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Obamacare has never been popular. Once it was forced through Congress, more Americans disapproved (48 percent) than approved (37 percent) of it, according to a CBS News poll at the time. Despite some slight shifts, those basic numbers are the same today, as more than half of Americans still disapprove of the law.

There is no crystal ball when it comes to predicting how Obamacare will affect November’s elections. However, if past elections are any indicator, Republicans could find themselves in control of the Senate and with a double-digit majority in the House.

Much has changed for Democrats since the last election cycle. Too many Americans have lost the plans they liked and the doctors they were comfortable with, seen their families health care costs skyrocket, and watched local businesses brace themselves for the hours and employees they will have to cut when this law takes full effect.

To add to this, recent Gallup polling shows more than twice as many Americans say they’ve been hurt by the law than those who say they’ve been helped and many expect the law to make their health care worse in the long run.

Democrats running in 2014 are going to face a more difficult test than their president did in getting re-elected in 2012, when Obamacare had not yet gone into effect. That election was about promise, this one is about reality. Now, their party’s only real accomplishment, after six years in power, is changing the condition of our country from an attitude of “hope” and “change” to a cynical one that expects it to get worse before it gets better.

According to Bloomberg a majority of voters say Obamacare will be a deciding factor in who they will cast their vote for in November. We have seen this before, the situation Democrats face this year is strikingly similar to what Republicans faced in 2006. At that time, President Bush had just been re-elected despite the fact that between 50 percent and 60 percent of Americans opposed the war in Iraq.

We saw how increasing public frustration with the war affected every Republican running in the 2006 midterm elections. Then, just as now, the president had disapproval ratings inching toward 60 percent.

Republicans fought to distance themselves from the president and the war, just as Democrats are trying to distance themselves from Obama and Obamacare. That strategy is unlikely to be any more successful for Democrats today than it was for Republicans in 2006.

It is now all but certain, Democrats will suffer signigicant losses in November, and if Republicans stay true to their messaging on health care, they could see similar success to that which led Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to the top leadership roles in the House and the Senate.

The 2006 midterm election marked the beginning of the long, slow end to the war in Iraq as many Republicans lost the will to defend it. Democrats, rattled by big losses in 2014, seem to be similarly unwilling to fight against delaying Obamacare implementation.

As the president continues to delay parts of Obamacare, he is making it that much easier for a Republican president in 2016 to change or repeal the law entirely.

We may very well be nearing a tipping point on Obamacare, and it starts with the party of an unpopular president paying the price for what he managed to avoid two years earlier. We’ve seen this film before and we know how it will end.

Chris Wilson is the Founder and CEO of @WPAResearch, a public opinion research company that conducted last week’s Presidential Survey for the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in NH and whose clients include Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT).