The last thing in the world that the GOP wants is for President Obama to fulfill his promise to get it right on the health care website glitch. That fawn hope has less to do with the GOP's relentless drive to torpedo the Affordable Care Act than the 2014 mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential elections. At the top of the high stakes political gambit is control of the Senate.
20 Democratic senators are up for reelection. Several of them are in states that are solid Red States. These senators are clearly vulnerable and they will be pounded through 2014 on one issue, and one issue only, and that's where they stand on Obamacare. The vulnerable Democratic senators in every case voted for the Affordable Care Act and have defended it and their vote to support it. This has stirred nervous tremors among the at-risk Democrats. They have had some well-publicized meetings with Obama to get reassurance not only that the alleged computer mess will be fixed but that there will be no future screw-ups in any other aspect of the implementation of the health care plan that will give the GOP any more ammunition to slay their reelection efforts.
The at-risk Democrats didn't stop at seeking White House assurances that the health care rollout will be an ultimate success. They've tried to hedge their election bets by taking a pot shot or two at the various hitches in the health care law most especially Obama's oft stated pledge that no one would be forced to give up their insurance coverage and sign up for a mandated coverage plan. Obama bowed slightly to that complaint and said he would let insurance companies continue to offer plans that were slated to be cancelled. The aim was to damp down the furor that arose over the prospect of thousands of policies being cancelled.
Despite the Democrat's mild panic and Obama's momentary popularity plunge, the GOP's hit plan is no cinch to work. The computer glitches have been a major headache and a source of much public anger stoked feverishly by the GOP. But the less known fact is that thousands have searched and signed up for various health plans both online and through the state exchanges. Over time thousands more will sign up online.
The government subsidies to help pay for coverage are bankrolled to the tune of more than a half trillion dollars. This will slash the actual costs of the various plans offered on the exchanges by more than half for a family of four. Most of those who fall below the poverty line won't be affected by any of this since they'll be covered through a radically ramped up Medicaid coverage in most states that's paid for by the federal government.
Obama's current popularity numbers drop is meaningless. The 2014 elections are still almost a year away and a president's popularity numbers have always see sawed up and down depending on public mood and an issue of the moment that the public perceives a president has mishandled. Even if in a worst case scenario, Obama's approval numbers did not completely recover, this would likely not have much effect on local races since the sticking point issue would not be Obama but the perceived failure of the health care law. This again is the problem for the GOP, the law will eventually work, and the thousands of persons that will have access to health care for the first time will be the breathing testaments to the success of the much maligned law. This would in effect take the issue off the table as an attack point for the GOP. And as always the public's memory for good and bad perceived policy missteps by an administration is never lasting.
At the height of public ire over the glitches and some aspects of the health care law, no poll showed that a majority of Americans ever wanted the law totally tossed. This is a huge counterweight to the GOP's cynical election ploy of making Obamacare its election meal ticket. Public support for the law is a strength that Democrats can use to their advantage. The 2014 and 2016 elections will be decided on who the voters believe can handle the perennially dominant issues of the economy and national security best. These are the issues that the GOP has stumbled badly on in the past two elections. The chances are good that the next election will see more of the same for the GOP.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.