The memo distributed to House Republicans this week was concise and blunt, listing talking points and marching orders: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.” “Continue Collecting Constituent Stories.”That's from The New York Times, which apparently has become the lucky recipient of leaks galore from House Republican operatives eager to convince skeptics that it does in fact have an effective and viable political strategy, and that they are not, contrary to most available evidence, a bunch of nincompoops. The report is filled with a bunch of self-congratulatory rhetoric from Republicans impressed with their ability to have put the administration on defense over Obamacare, which completely makes sense except for the part about how the primary reason why Obamacare has gotten bad press is because in most states, consumers could not access exchanges because of the botched implementation of healthcare.gov and some state-based exchange web sites.
The document, the product of a series of closed-door strategy sessions that began in mid-October, is part of an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Republican strategists say that over the next several months, they intend to keep Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault.
It's not that Republicans don't deserve a little bit of political credit here, but basically they are the equivalent of a defensive player in a football game who winds up with the ball in his hands after an unforced fumble. (Speaking of football analogies, you have got to read Jonathan Chait's awesome takedown of an actual football play diagrammed out in the House GOP's attack-Obamacare playbook.)
Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to pile on Obama, but everybody knew from the beginning that Republicans were going to do what they are doing now; the only question is whether their attacks would have any merit. They aren't doing anything different here with Obamacare than they did with the IRS, Benghazi, or Fast and Furious (aka #BenghazIRSurious)—the difference is that this time, the response to their attacks is "you've got a point, but we're going to fix it" instead of "you're a bunch of lunatics making stuff up."
By the way, the key thing to remember here is that if in fact things do get fixed—and there's reason to be optimistic about that—Republicans are ultimately going to find themselves in the same place as they do on #BenghazIRSurious: On the wrong side of the issue, and without anything positive to point to. Right now, things are as bad as they've been for President Obama and Obamacare. A brutal new CNN poll shows his approval rating is at the lowest level of his presidency. But despite that fact, the poll shows that more Americans want him to guide the nation's direction that want the GOP to guide it—and this is at his low point.
If things start to get worse with Obamacare and never recover, all bets are off. But for now, even at this current low, people aren't buying what Republicans are selling. In other words, today's political news might be great news for Mitt Romney, but it's not good news for Ted Cruz—or John Boehner.