Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

Ellison Barber

My must read of the day is "Republicans Place the Wrong Bet," by Charles M. Blow, in the New York Times:

Republicans may have bet too heavily on the wrong issue going into the midterm elections.

When the health care law’s website wasn’t working, the law itself was at its most unpopular and its most newsworthy, and the president’s poll numbers were cratering, many Republicans made the calculation that they could ride the wave of woe to an overwhelming electoral victory in November.

But betting on stasis is stupid. Things change.

The White House called in the geek squad, and they fixed the site. Last week, the White House also announced that four million people have now enrolled in the health care program. The president’s poll numbers have stabilized, albeit in negative territory. The news winds shifted. And Democrats have found an issue that they can campaign on and that America likes — helping the working class through things like raising the minimum wage.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday found that 50 percent of respondents would be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports increasing the minimum wage, as opposed to 19 percent who said that they were less likely. Twenty-eight percent said that it wouldn’t make a difference.

This sounds like something J.M. Barrie would write if he decided to analyze politics. It’s an overly optimistic argument, based on wishful thinking: "If you believe it, you can fly."

Blow almost entirely relies on the WaPo/ABC poll to make his case. A poll, that by the Washington Post’s account, found that while "the American people trust Democrats more than Republicans on some of the key issues of the day… that has not translated into any political advantage in the battle for control of the House and Senate in this year’s midterm elections." Rather, it showed "Republicans in a stronger position than Democrats in the states with Senate races this fall …"

Blow largely ignores the poll released by his employer, which found that Republicans have an "election edge" in 2014. Multiple polls give Republicans a similar edge, and experts from Charlie Cook to Larry Sabato’s analysts believe that as well.

It is highly unlikely Democrats will be able to pick up 17 seats in order to take back the House. Obamacare is the Republicans’ best chance at picking up the six seats they need to become the majority in the Senate.

Obamacare’s problems aren’t over. They’re compounding.

Even at 4 million enrollees, the numbers aren’t near projections; enrollment numbers of 18 to 34 year olds are far less than what the administration said they would need. That might not cause a death spiral that collapses the law, but it could cause health insurers to use those risk corridors, and it could result in insurance companies setting higher premiums for 2015. Then of course there’s that recent CMS report, which found that provisions of the law would cause premiums to increase for small business employers and their employees.

The Obamacare website still is not the model of perfection. It’s far from fixed. At least 22,000 people filed appeals regarding mistakes made by Healthcare.gov, but as of January 2014 federal workers were unable to fix them because the computer system for appeals is not working. The system to send payments from the website to insurance companies is also not built, and we still don’t know how many people have actually paid their premiums.

There is nothing to suggest that any of these problems are close to being over. Each new problem builds off the last, and that makes it far more likely that attacking Obamacare will be an effective campaign strategy for the Republicans.