In a stunning about-face, West Virginia Governor and Senate hopeful Joe Manchin publicly rebuked President Obama’s health care overhaul bill, the heretofore signature legislation of the Democratic Party. Speaking to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Manchin, who is struggling to overtake his Republican opponent in the race to win the late Robert Byrd’s Senate seat, claimed that he would not have voted for the bill given what he knows now. Clearly a maneuver to assuage restive West Virginia voters, Manchin’s statements only seem to confirm what many have suggested – that, above all other factors, ObamaCare weighs heavily on voters’ minds, and even heavier around the necks of Democratic candidates.
It’s not news that Democrats are running away from ObamaCare. Politico reported last month that there was seven times as much spending on anti-ObamaCare ads as there was spent on ads in favor of it. Democrats themselves have spent three times as much opposing the bill than they doled out supporting it. Since then, that figure has climbed to an astonishing twenty-to-one spent on ads opposing ObamaCare versus those in favor of it.
How could the tables have turned so remarkably? Recall after ObamaCare passed the Senate last year the Democrats were jubilant, basking in the glow of almost universal acclaim from the media. The fact that a sizable majority of Americans opposed the bill was brushed off with the confident assertion that once the people discovered what was in the bill – and, moreover, once Congress discovered what was in the bill – the public would give the Democrats their due and sweep them back into office. There was even talk that Obamacare would create a “permanent Democratic majority.”
But something truly remarkable happened on the road to serfdom; the putative slaves rebelled and insisted that they wanted no part of the Left’s scheme to control the American healthcare system. More to the point, and much to the detriment of the Democrat’s electoral prospects, rather than being grateful for blessings bestowed from on high, the populace never warmed to the idea. And as more and more details have emerged about the ObamaCare boondoggle, popular anger has only ossified.
The gap between those who oppose ObamaCare and those who support it is not huge. The latest survey released by the Kaiser Foundation, a pro-ObamaCare nonprofit group, shows that 49% of likely voters oppose the law while 39% support it. But the lukewarm support of the minority is overshadowed by a veritable tsunami of visceral disdain by the majority. The passion of those who oppose ObamaCare is what is terrifying Democrats like Joe Manchin.
ObamaCare, for these voters, has come to define everything that is wrong with President Obama’s agenda and the Democratic control of the House and Senate. It has become shorthand for the litany of wrongs the majority party has foisted on the country. This is why Joe Manchin is not merely running away from ObamaCare, but is actually trashing his party’s “proudest achievement” in order to curry favor with the most enthused portion of the electorate.
By all standards, Manchin shouldn’t be having problems like this. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 3-1 in the Mountaineer State. The senator he would be replacing spent a half century in office, regularly wining 2⁄3 of the vote or more. Unions are a big factor in West Virginia politics. And on top of that, Manchin is one of the most popular governors in the country. When GOP businessman John Raese entered the race, he trailed Manchin by 20 points. It seemed that the Democrats would have little trouble hanging on to a seat that a Republican hadn’t won since before World War II.
But try as he might, Manchin can’t disentangle himself from the ObamaCare debacle. He found himself well and truly trapped by his party’s authorship of national health care and he has spent the last month or more trying to wriggle away from its toxic effects – without much luck.
First, Manchin declared he was “totally behind” the bill. Then, recognizing this misstep, he suggested that repealing some of the bill would be fine, defending the bulk of ObamaCare as necessary and good. Soon after, Manchin proffered a more nuanced position, saying that if it couldn’t be fixed, the bill should be repealed. Without any more straws left at which to grasp, the governor has assured us he would not have voted for it if he had been in the Senate at the time of the debate.
Raese, an undeviating opponent of ObamaCare, meanwhile caught up to Manchin and is even surpassing him in some polls. Now, the GOP candidate is not only running ads on Manchin’s flip flops, he is tying Manchin to an equally unpopular target; President Obama. Raese and outside conservative groups are currently blanketing the state with ads superimposing the image of Obama’s face over Manchin’s, to add insult to injury.
Unfortunately for Democrats, Manchin is only the clearest example of a phenomenon described by Jeffrey Anderson in the New York Post. New polling evidence demonstrates that Democrats who voted against ObamaCare are doing much better than those who voted for it:
Based on the Real Clear Politics averages for polls [of House districts where of there are vulnerable Democrats], Democrats who voted against ObamaCare are now ahead in 10 of 15 races (leading by an average of 5.5 percentage points) while Democrats who voted for ObamaCare lead in just 9 of 33 races (losing by an average of 2.5 points).
The bottom-line? “[E]ven though more than twice as many pro-ObamaCare Democrats are running in these districts, more anti-ObamaCare Democrats are winning.”
In other words, this time it’s not the economy, stupid – it’s ObamaCare. And ill-advised Democrats like Joe Manchin are now facing the consequences for their excesses.