Is Health Reform To Blame For Democrats’ Poor Election Predicament?

National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar makes the case that “health care is fueling the Democrats’ dismal situation” going into the midterm elections by pointing out that “Democrats who opposed the bill are in surprisingly decent shape,” while those who went along with the White House are in very tight re-election races. When voters in competitive races “were asked an open-ended question about what gives them the biggest pause about voting for their sitting member of Congress, a solid plurality said it was health care – ahead of the economy and jobs,” Krausharr adds.

But if the unpopular legislation contributes to the predicted Democratic loses in the House — a point that is under some contention — it won’t be because the legislation itself is so rotten. Much of the blame should also fall on the Democrats’ failed effort to sell the law and the GOP’s success in tarnishing it.

Yesterday, Greg Sargent pointed out that “opponents of the legislation, including independent groups, have spent $108 million since March to advertise against it” — “six times more than supporters have spent, including $5.1 million by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the new law.” That $108 million went to finance the false claims that individuals who don’t purchase coverage will go to jail, or sex offenders will have access to government subsidized Viagara and seniors will lose all their Medicare benefits.

As Sargent notes, after the elections, some Democrats will surely argue that the administration overreached in its health care policy, a contention that’s undermined by these ad campaigns and polls which still show that the individual components of the bill are very popular. For instance, last night’s New York Times poll found that 41% of Americans thought Republicans should repeal the law, but that number dropped to 25% when the respondent was told that “repealing the law meant that insurance companies were no longer required to cover people with existing medical conditions.” Forty-six percent of respondents also said that “the Democratic party is more likely to improve the health care system,” while just 28 percent thought Republicans were.