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October 11, 2013

Jay Cost on the Shutdown: Fight or Fold

He seems to emphasize the "fold" option a bit more.

The findings of the newly released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll are simply brutal for congressional Republicans. Not only are they getting the lion's share of the blame for the government shutdown, but President Obama's numbers have actually improved. Worse, Obamacare's numbers are improving, as well.

That poll caused quite a sensation on Twitter last night, and while it is worse for Republicans than recent readings from the Associated Press's poll, NBC News/Wall Street Journal has a long track record of solid readings. This is not a result to be taken lightly.


It was supposed to be a shutdown about Obamacare, but Republican leaders were quickly sidetracked by low-hanging fruit like the closure of the National Mall, Harry Reid's gaffes, and Obama's refusal to negotiate. Tactically, this might have made sense, but strategically it was a terrible move. If the shutdown was supposed to be about Obamacare, then that should have been the only topic Republicans discussed.

I, obviously, don't agree with that at all. If the Shutdown is supposed to "hurt Republicans," then Republicans gain by making it not hurt as much.

But the below is true:

Moreover, insofar as Republican leaders have discussed Obamacare, they have done so ineptly, and have repeated Mitt Romney's grievous mistakes from 2012. Looking at the topline numbers on Obamacare, we can see it is very unpopular, but dig a little deeper and only about 30 to 40 percent of people believe that the law will make them worse off. This is a significant failure in political communication by the Republican party. Government agencies like the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have warned since 2010—in their dry, technocratic rhetoric—that Obamacare was going to harm middle class families. For weeks now stories have been trickling out about people receiving letters from their insurers notifying them that their rates are being doubled. For over a year we have similarly heard stories about hiring freezes or hours being cut because of Obamacare. And yet despite all this hard data, the public still has not connected the dots.

Yup. This I don't get.

Meanwhile, believe it or not, Peggy Noonan now thinks it's the time to strike.

The Obama administration has an implementation problem. More than any administration of the modern era they know how to talk but have trouble doing. They give speeches about ObamaCare but when it's unveiled what the public sees is a Potemkin village designed by the noted architect Rube Goldberg. They speak ringingly about the case for action in Syria but can't build support in the U.S. foreign-policy community, in Congress, among the public. Recovery summer is always next summer. They have trouble implementing. Which, of course, is the most boring but crucial part of governing. It's not enough to talk, you must perform.


That gets us to the real story of last week, this week and the future, the one beyond the shutdown, the one that normal people are both fully aware of and fully understand, and that is the utter and catastrophic debut of ObamaCare. Even for those who expected problems, and that would be everyone who follows government, it has been a shock.

They had 3˝ years to set it up! They knew exactly when it would be unveiled, on Oct. 1, 2013. On that date, they knew, millions could be expected to go online to see if they benefit.


Where does this leave us? Congressional Republicans and the White House may soon begin a series of conversations centering on the debt-ceiling fight. Good: May they turn into negotiations. Republicans are now talking about a grand bargain involving entitlement spending, perhaps tax issues. But they would make a mistake in dropping ObamaCare as an issue. A few weeks ago they mistakenly demanded defunding—a move to please their base. They will be tempted to abandon even the word ObamaCare now, but this is exactly when they should keep, as the center of their message and their intent, not defunding ObamaCare but delaying it. Do they really want to turn abrupt focus to elusive Medicare cuts just when it has become obvious to the American people that parts of ObamaCare (like the ability to enroll!) are unworkable?

The Republicans should press harder than ever to delay ObamaCare—to kick it back, allow the administration at least to create functioning websites, and improve what can be improved.

In the past the president has vowed he'd never delay. But that was before the system so famously flopped when people tried to enroll.


See, here's one thing I definitely disagree with the Tactically Savvy (supposedly) folks on: They keep claiming-- agreeing with Obama and Jon Favreau -- that if only there was no shutdown, the media would be eager to discuss the colossal failure of ObamaCare, and the skyrocketing prices for health insurance.

Does anyone believe that? I can't imagine the people offering this dreck actually believe that. It sounds to me an awful lot like a Helpful Claim to Make, and not one that is actually believed.

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posted by Ace at 06:13 PM

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