Passing AHCA Would Stifle Special Elections Momentum for GOP By Nicky Riordan
Recent special election losses have been a disappointment for Democrats, prompting some to suggest these wins embolden Republicans to fulfill their promise to repeal Obamacare. History suggests otherwise. Polling surrounding the 2010 healthcare debate, as well as the present one, show that Americans are hard to please when it comes to reform of this extremely important and personal issue.
President Obama’s approval rating shrunk for the first time prior to the vote on the Affordable Care Act. Obama lost 6 points in one month and dropped below 60 percent overall. Moreover, approval of his handling of health care dropped from 57 percent to 49 percent. Approval of the ACA itself was at 39 percent mere days before its signing into law. Republicans enjoyed a 10 percent lead in a generic Congressional ballot- the largest it had seen in the history of midterm generic ballots tracking.
13 Democrats lost their reelection bid in the 2010 midterms primarily due to their vote for the ACA and those that survived the election experienced a decline support of 6 to 8 points. Republicans ultimately netted 63 total seats, regained the majority, and gave the Democrats the worse midterm loss in the House since 1938. President Obama praised the courage of those Democrats, claiming they put country over self and sacrificed their seats for an important cause.
The Senate version of healthcare reform closely mirrors the most challenging provisions of the House bill, including unprecedented cuts and structural changes to Medicaid and the ability of states to waive essential benefits and regulations on insurance plans. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled a rush to vote with only one week of public input, likely because the Senate bill will be unpopular, seeing as only 17 percent of Americans supported the House version. Things got off to a tough start as several protesters of the bill, including people with disabilities, were arrested outside McConnell's office after it was released (pictured above).
Democrats have since gained a lead in the generic midterm ballot for 2018 of 16 points following the passage of the House bill. . In particular, there are at least 14 Republicans who may be at risk in 2018 due to the Democratic lean of their district and the fact that they voted for the House bill in May. Seven of those come from California alone, and faced tight margins in 2016 as well. Moreover, the majority of respondents in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll said they had “more faith in Democrats to do a good job on health care” and “would prefer Congress be under Democratic rather than Republican control after the midterm election in 2018 by an 8-point margin.”
Although Americans claim to want a better health care system, they tend not to like the impending change, regardless of which party is leading the effort. President Trump may be relieved to see his party holding ground in special elections across the country, but these results should not be understood as an affirmation for repealing Obamacare. If successful, which is a big “if,” this legislation, coupled with a historically unpopular administration, may cripple GOP efforts to retain the House.
Nicky Riordan, Political Analyst, Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research