Democrats received a bit of good news in two Marist/NBC Senate polls today showing Mark Udall in Colorado and Gary Peters in Michigan holding solid, though not especially large, leads. Throw these results into the polling averages, and Democrats appear to be ahead in both states.

Neither race is a must-win for Republicans to get to a 51-seat Senate majority. However, the more live targets, the better the chances for Republicans to get the six seats they need. And at any rate, we’re talking about the Senate, where every seat is important. A 53-47 advantage would give Republicans a far better working majority than a 51-49 split, and would make it more likely they could retain that majority after 2016.

At The Fix, Aaron Blake points out that Obamacare polled particularly badly in both of these polls, but it didn’t seem to have much spillover onto the candidate surveys. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The Affordable Care Act may be working reasonably well now, but it’s almost designed to be unpopular, or at least to poll badly, even if it’s successful. At the same time, it would be shocking if a law passed more than four years ago, and that is unlikely to generate any front-page news in the six months or so leading up to Election Day, had any direct effect on midterm elections.

As far as policy is concerned, although Republicans have a solid chance to win a Senate majority in 2014 and could win unified control of Congress and the White House in 2016, repeal of Obamacare is more of a pipe dream than ever. The Marist/NBC poll may show that people say the ACA was a mistake, but every poll that asks about alternatives finds that flat-out repeal, or even the Republicans’ supposed “repeal and replace” position, to be a non-starter with the public. The last thing anyone, including most Republican politicians, want is a messy, disruptive start-over. Unified Republican government would produce some real changes to the ACA: perhaps reducing or eliminating some revenue, and perhaps cutting subsidies and a few regulations. The strategy of impeding and obstructing the program, however, will look a lot less attractive to a Republican president who would be blamed for anything that goes wrong.

As I’ve said, we are seeing the end of Obamacare politics and the return of health care as a normal issue — and one that most likely will continue to (marginally) favor Democrats. We’re probably not quite there, but it’s getting closer.

[Cross-posted at Bloomberg View]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.