Democratic alarm over the fortunes of the Affordable Care Act is becoming more and more visible every day. The last sign of panic is that Hill Democrats have acquiesced to the conservative narrative about Tuesday’s Virginia governor’s race. In the fight between GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic victor Terry McAuliffe, nearly everyone expected Cuccinelli to lose big, given his socially conservative stances and lack of money and establishment support. Instead, the race turned out to be incredibly close: thanks to a last-minute, eight-point swing, he only lost by two points.
Cuccinelli himself, as well as many on the right, interpreted the narrow margin as a rebuke of Obamacare. In his concession speech, Cuccinelli said, ”Despite being outspent by an unprecedented $15 million, this race came down to the wire because of Obamacare. That message will go out to the entire country tonight.” Whether or not that message is received across the country, it’s the message Democrats are hearing. The
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….
Among the more than a dozen Democratic senators who pressed President Barack Obama to fix problems with the law’s implementation that have frustrated many Americans were several senators who face particularly tough races next November, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska.
It makes sense that the right would attribute the close race in Virginia to Obamacare unrest. According to polls, frustration with the website problems hasn’t yet blunted overall support for the ACA, but the right is hoping that furor over rate shock will, and that Virginia is a sign public opinion is turning in their favor. But the fact that many on the left haven’t pushed back against this narrative points to how anxious they are about the implementation trainwreck. A Democratic party confident in Obamacare would brush off what the right is saying about Cuccinelli with a narrative of its own: polls often narrow near the end of the race; Virginia is an historically red state; McAuliffe was an uninspiring and otherwise problematic candidate.
Instead, they’re worried that they’ll be the next victims of anger over Obamacare. In DC perception is often more important than reality, and can have a greater effect on the decisions politicians make. If Democrats are so twitchy about Obamacare right now that they’re seeing signs of its unpopularity everywhere, the voices on the left now cautiously calling for delays or amendments to the law might become much louder.