Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just How Bad Is The Obamacare Disaster For The Democrats?

Buzzfeed gives us a hit-list of Internet Memes!
Obamacare is floundering--Obama tried a spot-fix that some people think might be worse than the disease. Thirty Nine Democrats have defected to an alternative Republican fix. Obama's popularity is at an all time low ... how bad is this?

How Bad Is It?
Well, let's put things in perspective. Here is for Obama's approval levels:
All Time High--But Not By Much
The aggregate of Obama's polling badness is at 52.3 today. Back at the red-height of 2011 Oct it was 52.0. So things are bad--but he came back from that. It took a while--but less than the 12 months before the relatively important 2014 elections.

On health care it looks like this:
Again--All Time High for Red--But Black Is Higher Too
He's always been running in the red on healthcare. The Oct before the national election he was in pretty bad shape too.

But them on Foreign Policy he's undeniably taken a hit:
So it does look like he's getting beat up--especially since why Syria and Benghazi weren't good for him, the inflection point for FP seems to have hit well before the shutdown or the October 1st roll-out.

Let's note that both congress in general and especially the Tea Party are more unpopular that Obama ... and maybe more unpopular than Obamacare. If popularity is everything (it isn't) the 2014 elections could be a route.

So, Will Obamacare Bring the Democrats Down?
The Republicans certainly hope so. On the other hand our one test case had a special election Republican primary in Louisiana for a House seat. Riser is a conservative well established politician who had run decidedly against Obamacare. Riser was a wealthy challenger who competed for blue-collar workers using an endorsement from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty:
[L]ate in the race, McAllister gambled big by tacking to the left and expressing support for certain planks of Obamacare – a move designed to win over low-income voters and Democrats, who were allowed to vote in the primary and runoff.
In a conservative district where Mitt Romney won more than 60 percent of the vote, McAllister’s soft line on Obamacare was a risky one. Riser - who made the law’s repeal a central campaign plank - clobbered his opponent on the issue, saying it was evidence that he was insufficiently conservative.
The suggested readings of this are:
  • Maybe the wealthy McAllister bought the election? McAllister spent a bunch of his own money (Politico says 500k, Fox says 800k). On the other hand, by at least Nov 5, one source had Riser spending more than McAllister.
  • Democrats Voting In Primaries Sabotage The Process! Democrats could vote and McAllister got the endorsement of Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo (who finished third in the initial voting round). Did Democrats sabotage the open primary? We don't know (or, at least, The Omnivore can't find any decent exit polling). Still, this comes up all the time and its dubious Operation Chaos type stuff.
  • Hail To The Duck? Newsmax (America's most trusted* news source) thinks this 'upset' might foretell 'surprises' in the future. They note: The candidates disagreed on next to nothing. Both were strongly pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-Second Amendment, and opposed Obamacare." The difference was that McAllister wanted to fix it. Oh, and that Duck Dynasty is super-duper popular. Maybe that made the difference?
This is one measly data point but it's worth noting that (a) Riser was both the on-paper favorite and (b) a solid candidate in the specifics. He had the Freedomworks endorsement but was not a witch (or even a warlock). He had a track record and played the "You're not conservative enough" card.

It's also crucial to note that this was both Romney country and Obamacare was a key issue on the race. It was on the ballot.

So what's that tell us?

What Does This Tell Us?
It's hard to know what exactly Obamacare is going to look like by December 1st 2013--much less, say September 1st 2014--the 2-months-before-voting final period. However, here are some projections:
  1. By December 1st the website should allow 80% of the respondents to purchase healthcare. The left-out 20% would be people with complex families and those who for whatever reason can't use a computer (?).
  2. The enrollment period might get extended ... so might the ability of people who like their plans to keep them. Both of these will mess up the cost-projections insurance companies have done--but they might put a band-aid over the spurting artery of public opinion.
  3. Small businesses may have to move their employees to the exchanges (they may defer some of the costs, however) and some % of the population (between 3 and 5% of relatively high-earning privately insured people) will find their rates go up as their actually-good healthcare is reduced.
  4. Medicaid enrollment will soar in states that have it. This may actually be good for some Republican governors who've taken the money.
This means that, by Sept 2014, I will project:
  • The web-site is working for most people (above 80%--maybe not 100%) and the numbers are below what was projected--but not catastrophically low as they are now. 
  • The enrollment period will have been extended past March 31. Let's say by 4 months (?) to July. This has allowed even more people to sign up --but--
  • There is a story that your rates will skyrocket next year (2015) because sign-ups are not where they need to be and The Youth is coming along as well as people would like.
  • There are concerns that Medicaid costs will fall on the states when the federal subsidiaries cut off.
  • There is a lot of anecdata floating around about small businesses and individuals who have lost their coverage and moved to "something else."
However ...
  • A lot of people have gotten new insurance and some of them even like it--especially in states where they run their own exchanges.
  • There are Republican challengers facing incumbents on a state (Senate) level where making some changes to the law is seen as a winning move--ESPECIALLY if they can take a position against 'Rate Shock' which some non-negligible fraction of their voters are worried about.
  • Running on repeal at this point involves kicking millions of people off healthcare (and, especially, Medicare). The general consensus that "these people don't vote" is tested against available stats on how many of "these people" (a) navigated the website or (b) actually used their medicare. The conclusions (in my projection) is that these people might well vote to keep their benefits. This is, of course, exactly what Ted Cruz warned us about.
Where the net-net of this falls depends on your ideology but I'm going to suggest that the scenario above leaves us with these indications:
  • Repeal Is Probably Still A Loser: Repeal is seen as an absolute position and the voting body doesn't like absolute obstructionism. We've seen that in VA and now Louisiana. Both of these are decent test cases for launching a state-wide Repeal attack and both failed. If the Tea Party sticks to a hard-line Repeal position in 2014 this, I submit, will be a loser. Running on a Fix It platform may win.
  • The Time Table Is Too Long (Fundamentals Matter More): By Sept 1 2014, while Rate Shock fears are being spot-lit by multi-million dollar ad campaigns and the Small Business vote is, again, up in arms (remember "You Didn't Build That"?) the Democrats will have bought themselves precious time to recover. There will now be people talking about their new healthcare plan--or how they are covered even with a pre-existing condition (which, in the ad, is calculated to be one that a lot of people have). This allows a recovery of favorables out of the death-zone. Basically, over any period of time more than say 30 days, the election will revert to the fundamentals (the 2012 election results looked a lot like the basic fundamentals said they would). If the polling-disaster that was The Shutdown didn't kill the Republicans the polling-disaster that is Obamacare shouldn't kill the Democrats--not unless the election is tomorrow, anyway.
If the GOP continues its self-destructive behavior they'll run on Repeal and give up some of their structural advantage (I think the idea of the Dems taking the House in 2014 is delusional at this point). If they can rally and come up with fixes--or even some new ideas of their own though, they could leverage this fumble in 2014 to actually lead.

Sean Trende notes that however bad the Obamacare scenario looks right now it won't kill liberalsim and probably won't even kill Obamacare.

* And by 'trusted' I mean 'assumed to be pandering to the far right delusional bubble.' That's what trusted means!

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