The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
In Wake of Narrow Cuccinelli Loss, Democrats Panic

obamacare

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.

Published on November 7, 2013 5:00 pm
  • Anthony

    48 hours after Virginia’s election, pundits can speculate (ACA influenced election results, etc.); but fundamentally, McAuliffe had been flawed candidate and electorate (those who voted) held noses and chose – Cuccinelli had not been much better thence a close race (but what a waste of $$$).

    • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

      Shwu? The stats are in.

  • tarentius

    Obamacare had very little to do with the election in Virginia. What cost the Republicans the election was the Libertarian vote. Cuccinelli started with enormous handicaps – a disgruntled incumbent Lt Gov who thought he should have been the candidate and who split from the party, the gift scandal that wrecked Bob McDonnell’s career and splashed its slime onto Cuccinelli, the enormous money advantage McAuliffe had from calling in every IOU from every sleaze ball donor he ever schmoozed, the relentless anti-Cuccinelli propaganda by the Washington Post and the three liberal media establishment TV sites in DC, and the lack of support, if not active opposition, of the GOP establishment. In spite of all this, Cucinnelli would have won if the Libertarian candidate, massively funded by Democrat donors playing spoiler, had not gotten as high a vote as he did. The Democrats should be petrified about what’s going to happen to them in Virginia in 2014.

    • PapayaSF

      Except that at least one poll showed that Sarvis took more votes from McAuliffe than from Cuccinelli.

      • j Ray

        You keep holding to that fig leaf. Sarvis – funded by the Democrats – cost Cooch the election.

        • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

          Sarvis is no Libertarian by any definition except that he was funded by outside interests to usurp the L line on the ballot. That’s cool though. Maybe now the Reps will learn that big Ls are part of their constituency, or should be.

    • Mary123s

      i would agree with most, but the Reps made a big mistake pushing for a primary rather than a general vote. That angered a lot of VA Reps, because going to primaries takes a lot of time off that many cannot afford.

      Plus, Mr. C supported the personhood act. Even pro-life organizations do not like that act for various reasons (read that @ Hot Air a while back). C. seemed more interested in social issues rather than econ issues to many Virginians.

      Virginian Republicans knew C most likely would not make it this year. reading Hot Air last year I was surprised with the defeatist sound I was getting from most of the posters.

  • Andrew Allison

    The two previous commentators appear to have overlooked the fact that the dramatic narrowing of the polling gap was clearly a function of the ACA debacle.

  • Bruce

    VM continues to refer to “overall support” for the ACA, but I have not seen a poll that shows it as being supported by a majority of Americans. Virginia may or may not send messages, but common sense tells you that Dems are in trouble. Wait until next year when employers either start dropping coverage or greatly increasing employee premiums to cover the increased costs mandated by ACA. I don’t think the fact that Obama is out there apologizing today will do him much good.

    • Corlyss

      Agree. Isolated provisions get a lot of support, but I too do not see a lot of support for the entire act.

      • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

        There is none to see.

    • teapartydoc

      If anyone has been paying attention, the announcement that the employer mandate was followed by some major public announcements by several big health care organizations of large layoffs and budget cuts. This was because they had anticipated great increases in enrollments in ACA programs that they had spent billions to comply with and to manage as ACO’s (hiring doctors, nurses, staff, equipment, computers, leasing office space, building clinics, refurbishing and adding new hospital facilities, etc.; in other words, the kinds of investments one makes in a distorted market–an aside: a while back I was at a meeting at the Cleveland clinic. In the division I was in the offices had some exam rooms but also a bunch of fully equipped operating rooms that weren’t being used, except as exam rooms. Some regs had come out indicating that reimbursement might be a lot higher for certain procedures if they were done in the office, even if they required general anesthesia, but had either been struck down before implementation, or were re-interpreted differently when that happened. Millions mis-spent in anticipation. Now they are announcing a 300 million dollar cutback–it will probably be more.) The organization I work for has now far exceeded the announced layoffs by 25%. They said they would lay off less than a thousand; it has been far more. And I don’t think this is the end. If these organizations had any faith in the ability of the President to implement his law, they would be able to find a way to meet expenses for one year and ride out this storm in anticipation of better things when the employer mandate kicks in. No. They are bailing out on him.

      • werewife

        About dang time. If only the whole freaking country had done so in 2012… (BTW, teapartydoc, whenever I run into your comment byline, I know I’m going to learn something interesting.)

    • Andrew Allison

      It’s worse than that. What the polls show is that a majority of the people having an opinion are opposed! Is VM being willfully blind?

  • Corlyss

    Can’t wait to see the class of 14′s blood on the streets, metaphorically speaking.

  • Anthony

    Using the patois of children of the streets: VM has ample supply of partisan haters; Perhaps venting subjective frustration/resentment while attempting to validate their selection by denigration of perceived opposition provides psychological dispensation… (not to mention Disqus’s anonymous negative vote mechanism for any cognitive disonance).

  • j Ray

    Remember. The Republicans tried to save America from this horrible law. But the DEMOCRATS insisted that it neither be repealed, or modified.

    Yes. WE TOLD THEM SO.

    Given that EVERY DEMOCRAT in the 2010 senate REFUSED to fix the “grandfather clause,” the only way the Democrats can atone is to REPEAL it.

  • Mary123s

    as a Virginian, this election was not about O-Care (yet)…it was for either a Dem candidate with no exec experience and no businesses in VA (with questionable business experience outside VA) versus a rather restrictive Rep conservative who not only wanted to ban abortion but also restrict womens’ rights to divorce. He even covered up the state’s symbol, because she had one breast out.

    In the words on one commenter, it was either “the kook or the crook”

  • http://whenfallsthecoliseum.com/author/kwatson/ megapotamus

    “Work harder!” is the Dems message to Obama. Yeah, that’s some good advice. Screw you morons straight to the deck. You ALL voted for it (if you were in office that day). You will ALL perish most horribly. It’s not Obama’s fault. He didn’t write the damn thing. It’s Hillarycare spliced with Romneycare and fermented for ten-odd years in the hopper. Yes, it is naught but corruption. So what? Forward.

  • I BarKahn

    Mead, as usual, avoids the root issue in the Virginia election. Were it not for the shameful refusal of the state Republican Party and the national RNC to support Cuccinelli, and to work against the Democrat supported Libertarian spoiler candidate, Cuccinelli would have won the race by three to five percent, creating a real national catastrophe for the future of Obamacare and winning the governorship of an important state. But Mead, who needs to continue to dine each day at the Republican establishment table, would never focus on that. Reader, whatever moral and intellectual integrity Mead had is long gone. If you continue to read Mead, to let Mead’s self-serving versions of events influence your opinions, you are cheating yourself. Compare Mead’s assessment of the event to mine. Which of us grasped the root issue, the issue of the Republican Party’s survival and the de facto (or de jure) repeal of Obamacare?
    By the way, Mead has my standing offer to debate my assertions with me at any time place or venue, or at least to debate them in written exchanges. Don’t grow blue while holding your breath for Mead to accept.

  • richard40

    If you add Cuccinellis vote, to that of the libertarian, who also opposed obamacare, you get an anti obamacare vote of 51%