Even the most ardent proponents of the Affordable Care Act would balk at describing the law as “popular.” It’s just not. The individual provisions within the law enjoy broad public support, but much of the public still doesn’t know exactly what’s in the health care law, and many continue to have negative impressions of the overall package.
But there’s no great mystery as to why Americans are reluctant to hold the breakthrough domestic policy milestone in high regard: they’ve been told not to like it.
Seven months before the core provisions of President Obama’s health care law are to take effect, most television advertising that mentions the law continues to come from its opponents.
Since the law’s passage in March 2010, critics have spent a total of about $400 million on television ads that refer to it, according to a new analysis by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, which tracks such spending. Supporters have spent less than a quarter of that – about $75 million – on ads that cast the law in a positive light, according to the analysis.
For those keeping score, that means the law’s opponents – various Republican committees, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, etc. – have outspent its proponents by a greater than five-to-one margin.
With a public-relations imbalance like that, it’s hardly a surprise that the public remains skeptical.
But the explanation for public doubts ultimately matters less than the cynicism itself. “Obamacare” is poised to be fully implemented next year; its success depends in large part on public participation; and Republicans hope to make the Affordable Care Act a central component of their 2014 midterm strategy. The advertising imbalance matters, but what matters more are the real-world consequences – the White House and its allies need to stop playing defense and start making a persuasive case in support of their health care law.
I’m reminded of something Kevin Drum said a month ago: “Dems need to be promoting Obamacare with the same fervor Republicans bring to the attack, pointing out its benefits and upsides at every opportunity. So far I haven’t seen this – or even anything even close to this – and I suppose that might only be due to the fact that 2014 is still a ways off. But it better start happening soon.”
I think it’s fair to say the president and his allies agree, and the push is beginning in earnest.
Indeed, this week will offer a noteworthy example.
President Barack Obama will come to San Jose on Friday to tout California as proof that his “Obamacare” health care reforms are working. […]
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that before departing for Southern California, the president will deliver a statement Friday morning in San Jose about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
He’s expected to highlight the news that, despite dire predictions, early data on insurance competition and premiums in the Golden State show the president’s health care reform plan is creating affordable choices for Californians who plan to buy insurance this fall.
This comes just a few weeks after the president “came out fighting in defense of his health care law … saying that he was ‘110 percent committed’ to delivering its benefits on schedule, and that consumers should not be bamboozled by critics spreading misinformation about the law.”
Also note, Politico reported this week that congressional Dems are prepared to take the offensive, too: “Scarred by years of Republican attacks over Obamacare, with more in store next year, Democrats have settled on an unlikely strategy for the 2014 midterms: Bring it on. Party strategists believe that embracing the polarizing law – especially its more popular elements – is smarter politics than fleeing from it in the House elections. The new tack is a marked shift from 2010, when Republicans pointed to Obamacare as Exhibit A of big government run amok on their way to seizing the House from Democrats.”
The DCCC is even confident enough to launch robocalls slamming 10 House Republicans for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
When it comes to the politics of health care, it appears to be a new day.