Ellison's Must Read of the Day

November 7, 2013

My must read of the day is "Worried Senators Press Obama on Health Law," in the Wall Street Journal:

Democratic senators took their complaints about the troubled launch of the federal health law directly to the White House Wednesday, as the surprisingly close governor's race in Virginia prompted some in the party to warn that they would face voter backlash next year if the problems weren't fixed.

Republicans and a number of Democratic officials say distaste for the health law aided Ken Cuccinelli, the losing GOP candidate in Virginia, who focused heavily on the health law in the campaign's final weeks. Polls for weeks had longtime Democratic fundraiser Terry McAuliffe breezing to an easy victory, but he won Tuesday by less than three percentage points. […]

Some Democrats insist it is far too early to predict political perils stemming from the law's rollout, and that Republicans would be foolish to count on that for victories in 2014.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) said unhappiness with the law "had some effect on the election.'' He predicted that problems with the law would be fixed, and that it would have a "minimal effect'' next November.

Even if you believe what happened in Virginia won’t become a trend in 2014, it is difficult to deny that the close outcome was anything other than a result of dissatisfaction with the Affordable Care Act.

And it’s probably not a coincidence that 24-hours later the president had a meeting with Democratic senators. Democrats are and should be worried. The law has faced nothing but problems thus far and that narrative isn’t changing in the immediate future.

But how much reproach can come from Democrats? At this point the push back we see from Sens. Mary Landrieu (D., La.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) are probably the most politically feasible. Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D., W. Va.) calls for a year delay of the individual mandate are a bit more severe, and so far no other Democrats have joined him.

The hard deadlines set by the White House will make a huge difference. Democrats may be pushing back a little bit now, but there isn’t much more they can do without conceding defeat – they may do that if deadlines are missed and public opposition grows, but even then it seems much more likely that the majority of Democrats will staunchly defend the laws.

Most of them aren’t as vulnerable as Sens. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.), Landrieu, Mark Begich (D., Alaska), and Kay Hagan (D., N.C.). After spending years to get the law passed, most seem inclined to go out swinging before admitting problems.