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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dem Senator Jim Webb: Obamacare "cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader'

By Susan Duclos

Ya think?

President Obama’s new health-care law will be his greatest liability as he attempts to once again win the critical swing state of Virginia, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) warned Wednesday.

“I’ll be real frank here,” Webb said at a breakfast organized by Bloomberg News. “I think that the manner in which the health-care reform issue was put in front of the Congress, the way that the issue was dealt with by the White House, cost Obama a lot of credibility as a leader.”

Webb is the latest Democratic politician speaking out about Obama's "signature achievement", the Affordable Care Act more widely known as Obamacare, although his criticism is different from others that have spoken out against the law.

“If you were going to do something of this magnitude, you have to do it with some clarity, with a clear set of objectives from the White House,” added Webb, who opted not to run for a second term this year. “...It should have been done with better direction from the White House.”

He faulted Obama for playing too passive a role in shaping the legislation. Taking a lesson from Bill Clinton’s failed 1994 health-care overhaul effort--which was faulted for its micromanagement of the details of the bill--Obama opted to spell out a broad set of goals, and let Congress work out the details.

What happened in the end, Webb said, “was five different congressional committees voted out their version of health-care reform, and so you had 7,000 pages of contradictory information. Everybody got confused. ... From that point forward, Obama’s had a difficult time selling himself as a decisive leader.”

Former Democratic congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper said in a press release sent out by Democrats for Life in November:

"I would have never voted for the final version of the bill if I expected the Obama Administration to force Catholic hospitals and Catholic Colleges and Universities to pay for contraception. We worked hard to prevent abortion funding in health care and to include clear conscience protections for those with moral objections to abortion and contraceptive devices that cause abortion. I trust that the President will honor the commitment he made to those of us who supported final passage."

While the criticism is different, there are some similarities between Webb and Dahlkemper

1. They both voted for the bill, although they offer excuses for why they did.

2. Neither of them are running for office again.

Obamacare had become so toxic to the Democratic Party that Dem lawmakers that voted against Obamacare at the time of passage proudly touted their "no" vote as they fought to get reelected in the 2010 midterms.

Obama may have lost credibility as a leader, according to Webb, but Democratic lawmakers that voted for Obamcare lost quite a bit more according to studies conducted since then.

In April 2011, a study by Seth Masket, associate professor of political science at the University of Denver and Steven Greene, of North Carolina State University, found that 13 Democrats lost their reelection bid in the 2010 midterm elections because of their vote for Obamcare.

Abstract from the April study:

We examine the performance of Democratic members of the 111th House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections based on their votes on four key roll call votes: health care reform, the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and the financial bailout of 2008. The results suggest that health care reform was a particularly costly vote: Democrats who supported the measure ran six to eight points behind those who opposed it. We find some evidence that support for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) dampened Democrats’ reelection prospects, as did support for the 2009 economic stimulus, particularly in more moderate districts.

"This cost at least thirteen House Democrats their jobs," says Masket, of the healthcare vote. "We find a smaller, but still statistically significant, effect for supporting TARP. The stimulus has a mixed effect, harming Democrats in more conservative districts but possibly helping them in more liberal ones. We found no overall effect for cap-and-trade."

Their full 23 page survey and analysis with the list of the 13 healthcare losers can be seen here. (PDF)

In March of 2012, the Washington Post reported on another study, which included the previous one as part of their larger effort, ran 10,000 simulations in which all vulnerable Democrats voted against the health care bill and found it would have saved Democrats an average of 25 seats.

Furthermore, in 62 percent of the simulations, had Democrats voted against Obamacare, Democrats would have kept control of the House of Representatives.

Abstract from that study:

We investigate the relationship between controversial roll call votes and support for Democratic incumbents in the 2010 midterm elections. Consistent with previous analyses, we find that supporters of health care reform paid a significant price at the polls. We go beyond these analyses by identifying a mechanism for this apparent effect: constituents perceived incumbents who supported health care reform as more ideologically distant (in this case, more liberal), which in turn was associated with lower support for those incumbents. Our analyses show that this perceived ideological difference mediates most of the apparent impact of support for health care reform on both individual-level vote choice and aggregate-level vote share. We conclude by simulating counterfactuals that suggest health care reform may have cost Democrats their House majority.

Their full 37 page analysis can be found here. (PDF)

Republicans won 63 seats overall in the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterms.

Generally, after more than two years after a controversial vote, the general electorate would not still penalize any one party for that particular vote but with the reemergence of Obamcare into the spotlight after the Supreme Court heard arguments in late March over the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which angered voters two years ago, and the final ruling expected in June, just months before the 2012 elections, where double the amount of Democratically controlled Senate seats are on the ballot as Republican seats (D- 21/R-10 and 2 Independents that caucus with Democrats), there is a better than average chance that Obamacare will once again be a large factor in the November 2012 elections.

[Update: 4/20/12] Democrats expressing buyers’ remorse on Obama's healthcare law.