Ben Smith at Politico:
Key White House allies are dramatically shifting their attempts to defend health care legislation, abandoning claims that it will reduce costs and deficit and instead stressing a promise to “improve it.”
The messaging shift was circulated this afternoon on a conference call and PowerPoint presentation organized by Families USA — one of the central groups in the push for the initial legislation. The call was led by a staffer for the Herndon Alliance, which includes leading labor groups and other health care allies. It was based on polling from three top Democratic pollsters: John Anzalone, Celinda Lake and Stan Greenberg.
The confidential presentation, available in full here and provided to POLITICO by a source on the call, suggests that Democrats are acknowledging the failure of their predictions that the health care legislation would grow more popular after its passage, as its benefits became clear and rhetoric cooled. Instead, the presentation is designed to win over a skeptical public, and to defend the legislation — and in particular the individual mandate — from a push for repeal.
The presentation concedes that groups typically supportive of Democratic causes — people under 40, non-college-educated women and Hispanic voters — have not been won over by the plan. Indeed, it stresses repeatedly that many are unaware that the legislation has passed, an astonishing shortcoming in the White House’s all-out communications effort.
“Straightforward ‘policy’ defenses fail to [move] voters’ opinions about the law,” says one slide. “Women in particular are concerned that health care law will mean less provider availbality — scarcity [is] an issue.”
The presentation also concedes that the fiscal and economic arguments that were the White House’s first and most aggressive sales pitch have essentially failed.
“Many don’t believe health care reform will help the economy,” says one slide.
The presentation’s final page of “Don’ts” counsels against claiming “the law will reduce costs and deficit.”
Peter Suderman at Reason:
Is the White House, which spent so much time and energy making the case for the fiscal responsibility of its health care law, going to push back at so many of its close allies for playing down its initial cost and deficit claims? Somehow I doubt it. Not when we’re already seeing evidence that the PPACA will push health insurance premiums higher starting as early as next year.
The best case that liberal health care advocates can make here is that they are simply backing off the cost and deficit claims because those arguments aren’t resonating with voters. No matter what, as Smith’s piece notes, this signals a dramatic shift in messaging—one that basically concedes that, in the court of public opinion, critics have won the core economic argument about the law.
Jeffrey Anderson at The Weekly Standard:
Legislation that the Congressional Budget Office says would cost about $2.5 trillion in its real first decade (2014 to 2023) wouldn’t do the one thing that Americans most want out of health-care legislation: cut health care costs. It wouldn’t, despite the administration’s repeated claims to the contrary, cut deficits. But, on the bright side, it can (allegedly) be improved. That’s an amazingly tepid claim to make on behalf of something with Obamacare’s price tag.
The truth is that Obamacare cannot be improved. It can only be repealed. It was passed as “comprehensive legislation,” and it must be repealed comprehensively.
The vast majority of Americans recognize this. Rasmussen’s latest survey of likely voters shows Americans favoring repeal by the overwhelming tally of 60 to 36 percent. This 24-point margin is Rasmussen’s 2nd-highest in the 21 polls it has conducted in the five months since passage, despite, as Politico puts it, “the White House’s all-out communications effort” in the interim – much of it at taxpayer expense.
Erick Erickson at Redstate:
Note just how bad it must be for the Democrats and their messaging if “many are unaware that [Obamacare] has passed.” This is consistent willful naivety by the Democrats. The public that will most likely vote does know Obamacare passed and they are mad as all get out because of it.
And the kicker — the revised talking points counsel that Democrats should avoid making the claim that Obamacare will reduce costs and cut the deficit. In other words, the two main selling points are being tossed out the window.
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
So now the contest is between the one party, which jammed ObamaCare through despite the public’s wishes, but now is experiencing an election-eve conversion, and the other, which opposed it all along and is promising to repeal it. If the bill is as bad as everyone now concedes it is and it won’t do what was promised (what the Democrats promised), what exactly is the rationale for re-electing the Democrats, who can no longer make a credible argument that it is a good bill, let alone an historic one?
It does give hope, however, that “repeal and reform,” the Republican mantra on ObamaCare, might have bipartisan support after the November election. Or, in the words of the politician derided for being dense but who’s far more in sync with the public than the president on just about every issue (e.g., ObamaCare, Israel, the war against Islamic jihadists, the Ground Zero mosque, the failed stimulus), maybe we can all agree to refudiate Obama.
The powerpoint comes from a lefty shop called the Herndon Alliance, which “partners” with ObamaCare shills like the AFL-CIO, SEIU, MoveOn, etc. I’m not sure how much of this is revelatory: Two weeks ago Claire McCaskill responded to the anti-mandate vote in Missouri by saying there’s still plenty of work to do on the provisions of the law, which is vague enough to mean virtually anything. For instance, no doubt plenty of House progressives want to “improve” it by passing a public option. But even so, the fact that they’re now so far in retreat that they’re willing to make rhetorical concessions even on their idiotic core plank about bending the cost curve shows just how worried they are that the GOP (a) will be making big, big gains in November and (b) might just have the public support needed to get a serious pro-repeal movement going among the electorate. This is pure defense. Flashback exit quotation via Jim Geraghty: “If Republicans want to campaign against what we’ve done… that is a fight I want to have.”