It’s the Obamacare, Stupid

Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the narrative has been that it energized the Republican base and neutralized Democratic enthusiasm heading into the 2018 midterm elections. One indication that the bounce could be short-lived comes from a look at the generic ballot. On the RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight and Huffington Post trackers, you can detect a slight bump for Republicans that quickly faded.

But it was the generic ballot graph at Civiqs that caught my eye.

The labelling of events over time drew my attention to what happened around the time that Republicans released their failed health care plan (BCRA) and the nation’s attention was captured by the potential repeal of Obamacare. Support for congressional Republicans plummeted. There wasn’t a surge in support for Democrats, but those voters drifted towards someone else or being unsure.

That confirms what we’ve seen in poll after poll showing that healthcare is the number one issue for voters in these midterms. It is also obvious that Republicans—especially those running in close races—recognize that preserving the benefits of Obamacare is important to voters.

For example, when Scott Walker was running for president, he promised that on day one he would repeal Obamacare in its entirety. Now, when it comes to the provision protecting people with pre-existing conditions, he’s singing a different tune.

As Jonathan Cohn documents, Republicans all over the country are attempting to re-write their history on Obamacare because they can read the polls as well as we can.  Even Ted Cruz, who is singularly responsible for shutting down the entire federal government in a failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, talked about his support for protecting people with pre-existing conditions in the debate last night with Beto O’Rourke.

My title, of course, comes from James Carville’s famous line in the 1992 presidential election, “It’s the economy, stupid.” That’s because, while that national conversation gets caught up in the Kavanaugh hearings, Kanye West’s visit to the White House, or the latest outrageous tweet from the president, the issue that is actually animating voters is flying under the radar.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.